THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY, by Nicole Melleby, Algonquin Young Readers, May 10, 2022, Hardcover, $16.95 (ages 9-12)
A tween sets out to discover why she acts the way she does in Nicole Melleby’s The Science of Being Angry.
Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like the time she threw a soccer ball — hard — at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or when jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too roughly.
After a meltdown at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she’s so mad. A new unit in science class makes her wonder if the reason is genetics. Does she lose control because of something she inherited from the donor her mothers chose? —Synopsis provided by Algonquin Young Readers
There’s a lot to unpack in The Science of Being Angry:
- Joey is a triplet with identical twin brothers conceived by use of a sperm donor.
- Joey has a half brother from Mom’s first marriage who would rather live with his dad.
- Joey is always angry — all she wants to do is scream, and she can’t seem to help acting out.
- Joey’s mothers are lesbian, and she thinks she might be, too.
- Joey’s attracted to her best friend.
- A science class genetics project has Joey wondering if she inherited her anger from her biological father.
- None of her classmates want to be Joey’s friend, and some of them actively bully her.
With so much going on, you’d think that you’d get lost, but somehow, everything works together to create a thoughtful novel that touches on the nuances of nature, nurture and how they shape us.
Author Nicole Melleby asks some tough questions of both her characters and her readers, and if you’re willing to go along with it, the answers can be rewarding.
That’s not to say that The Science of Being Angry is an easy read.
Joey makes for a fascinating character study. Joey’s feelings practically pour off the page, forcing you to take a step back every once in a while, and take a breath. Readers who have experienced strong feelings themselves will particularly be drawn to Joey, as will those who may have seen similar behavior from family members or friends.
The Science of Being Angry is an intense and satisfying look at discovering where and how you want to fit into the surrounding world.
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