Happy Monday, guys!
This week, we're reviewing The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan. It's a fun and thoughtful tale about a girl who learns to push herself beyond her boundaries, and will be appreciated by readers of all ages.
Check out our review below + a chance to win the ARC! MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Expected publication: November 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Format read: E-galley via publisher
Teagan introduces us to Madeline, a middle school student who isn’t your average student. She’s a budding young scientist, who wants nothing more than to become a renowned microbiologist.
While part of that influence is due to the work of her father and grandfather – both men of science themselves – it’s also partially due to the fact that the women of Madeline’s family all have Von Willebrand – a bleeding disorder that prevents blood from clotting. It’s Madeline’s hope to help pave the way toward curing the disease. However, Madeline learns that life isn’t something that can only be lived in a lab…
While the trope of a character that is intellectual driven at the expense of other development, is one that pops up sporadically in MG/YA fiction, I do think that Teagan approaches Maddie’s development in a unique and heartwarming manner. Because then focus on the oft-used stereotype that people who are driven are socially awkward without reason, Teagan centers Maddie’s social awkwardness on the idea that Maddie has never needed anyone else in her life before. She’s always had her best friend Elizabeth and her grandfather, and both were enough to get Maddie all the way through elementary school.
Now that she’s at a new school without Elizabeth and her grandfather has passed away, the loss in her life is palpable. Teagan paints a heartbreaking look of someone who is coping for loss for the first time – Maddie’s reminisces about watching her grandfather wave at her school bus every morning sent a pang through my heart – and consequently, her pulling into herself is only natural.
Though the reader (and Maddie, at some level) knows it’s mean, Maddie writes Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on how to avoid connecting with anyone at her new school. Her thoughts are unflattering and nasty, but Teagan has done a thorough enough job of building up Maddie’s mourning and adjustment struggles, that it’s obvious she’s pushing people away because she doesn’t want to lose anyone again.
And while the inevitable fallout is painful, Teagan is careful to show it as almost a right-of-passage. While making mistakes are never fun – whether it’s in science experiments or in life – they have to happen, so a person can course correct and make the appropriate discoveries.
As Maddie gets closer to these discoveries, Tegan is also careful to remind that it’s sometimes okay to not have all of the answers. When Maddie confesses her fears related to Von Willebrand, the reminder that life will get better and discoveries may happen along the way that will improve the situation, also stand in for a thoughtful metaphor on how people like Maddie should choose to live their lives, as well.
Bottom line: While Maddie may initially come off as a stereotypical nerd who is learning how to function in the real world, Erin Teagan’s writing and plotting helps elevate the story to another level. Highly recommend, full stop.