The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
In one of those “dorky old composition notebooks,” seventh-grader Natalie is “supposed to observe something that interests us and spend all year applying the scientific process to our capital-Q Question.” While she struggles to formulate that ideal Q, Natalie fills the pages with much more than an assignment, especially involving observations about her brilliant, botanist mother who can’t seem to get out bed, the methods she concocts to spark her to care again, the friends she’ll need to prove her hypotheses, and the surprising results which follow.
That narrator Jennifer Kim avoids pitching her voice toward falsetto-high proves advantageous as she moves effectively from tween to teacher to grandmother with the slightest adjustments. Her deeper voice provides gravitas to Natalie’s depressed mother, her father’s false cheer, while her agile intonations enhance the rhythms of youthful tweenage dialogue.
Kim’s shared Korean heritage with debut novelist Tae Keller (who, like Natalie, is ¼ Korean, and happens to be the daughter of award-winning writer Nora Okja Keller) gives her shared linguistic fluency as well. Whether on the page or stuck in the ear, these Things prove positively satisfying.
Readers: Middle Grade