The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

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Annotation: Lucy Callahan has been homeschooled ever since a lightning strike at age twelve gave her genius-level math skills. Now, although she's academically ready for college, she finds that middle school may just be the one problem she can't solve.
Catalog Number: #160132
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 293 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-524-76757-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-1135-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-524-76757-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-1135-7
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017021152
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
When Lucy, 12, was struck by lightning, she gained extraordinary math skills, and her grandmother, Nana, who raised Lucy after her parents' death, has homeschooled her ever since. Lucy is content to fill her hours with online college classes and chats on math forums where no one knows her real age, but Nana decides that Lucy needs to experience a world outside of a computer screen. If Lucy goes to middle school for one year, Nana promises, she'll be allowed to apply to college, and reluctantly, Lucy agrees. At first, her germophobia and mild obsessive behavior make a difficult situation more difficult, but eventually, she acquires two friends, finds useful work to do at an animal shelter, and has her life changed by a little dog she calls Pi. McAnulty captures the drama and trauma of middle school with well-rounded and believable characters and a convincing and appealing story. The math focus (for instance, McAnulty nicely weaves information about pi and Fibonacci numbers) adds a useful STEM component as well.
Horn Book
After being struck by lightning, Lucy became a mathematical genius. Now, four years later, she's a homeschooled recluse with OCD--and no friends, other than her online math pals. So Lucy's grandmother takes action and, much to the brainy twelve-year-old's dismay, enrolls her in middle school. McAnulty's preteen characters feel like the real deal here, as does the math-in-the-real-world content (such as optimizing shelter dog adoptions).
Publishers Weekly
When 12-year-old Lucy was struck by lightning at age eight, her brain was damaged, resulting in her acquired savant syndrome. She becomes a mathematical genius and develops obsessive-compulsive disorder; she-s been homeschooled ever since. She feels safe at home with her uncle and grandmother, but Nana wants Lucy to become better integrated with her peers and enrolls her in seventh grade. Lucy hides her math abilities to blend in, and she-s bullied by popular girl Maddie, but when she and another student, Windy, team up with classmate Levi for a community service project, a true friendship grows. The three help out at the Pet Hut, a no-kill shelter where Lucy, who has never liked animals, bonds with Cutie Pi. After Cutie Pi is diagnosed with cancer-which means that she will likely be transferred to a state shelter and put down-and Windy betrays Lucy by revealing a secret, Lucy must learn how to solve problems of the heart. McAnulty realistically portrays Lucy-s OCD, and her struggles in middle school also ring true. Every character is fully formed, and Lucy-s journey is beautifully authentic in this debut brimming with warmth, wisdom, and math. Ages 8-12. Agent: Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary Management. (May)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 46 McAnulty ( Brave ) makes a big splash with this standalone novel. Twelve-year-old Lucy, a.k.a. Lightning Girl, has been homeschooled by her grandmother since she was eight; she's been a math genius ever since she was hit by lightning and survived. She also lives with OCD and has rituals that revolve around the number three. If she does not perform them, the numbers of Pi string out in her brain. "It's like getting a song stuck in your head Incredibly annoying but beautiful." Since she can recite the numbers to the 314th decimal place, seeing them prevents her from concentrating on anything else. She mastered calculus and now wants to take college classes. Nana wants her to go to middle school for a year, make a new friend, try one new activity, and read a book that isn't about matha tall order for the genius. Lucy is a unique and endearing character who readers will not soon forget. The school, social situations, and dialogue are spot on. Lucy's voice is distinct, and her intelligence and wry humor shine. Her love of math will be contagious even for math-phobes. Other characters, such as Nana, Uncle Paul, Windy, and Levi, are equally well drawn. Readers should be prepared to weep at a gut-punching turn of events near the end but will close the book with a satisfied sigh and a Lucy-sized place in their heart. VERDICT Prepare to fall in love. This outstanding story sensitively portrays a neuro-diverse main character and is not to be missed. Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
1 math genius + 1 year of middle school = problems even the most gifted mind can't anticipate.Four years ago, 12-year-old Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. The strike left her with brain damage, resulting in acquired savant syndrome and a "supercomputer brain." Lucy can solve any equation, recall every number she's ever heard or seen, and recite pi to the 314th decimal place (she doesn't allow herself to go beyond that). Lucy has finished school online and is ready for college, but her grandmother has a few conditions for Lucy to meet before she'll allow her to move on to higher education. (Nana is her guardian, her mother being dead and her father having split.) The reclusive Lucy has to develop her "soft skills": She has to attend middle school for 1 year, make 1 friend, and join 1 activity. Math is comfortably predictable; every problem has an answer if you know how to find it. But Lucy quickly realizes no formula can calculate the perils and pitfalls of public school. The multidimensional, highly likable Lucy's first-person narration is direct and unrestrained. In her first novel for middle graders, McAnulty (Max Explains Everything, 2018, etc.) eschews stylistic convention: All numbers are represented as numerals to allow readers to see the world the way Lucy does. Lucy is white, but she does not subscribe to the white default, observing and describing skin color evenhandedly. Unique and utterly satisfying. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-13)
Word Count: 54,622
Reading Level: 3.7
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.7 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 195064 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.1 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q73527
Lexile: 530L
Guided Reading Level: W
Fountas & Pinnell: W

I don't remember the moment that changed my life 4 years ago. Call it a side effect of being struck by lightning. That bolt of electricity burned a small hole in my memory. It also rewired my brain, transforming me into Lucille Fanny Callahan, math genius.


I've been told the lightning-strike story 42 times, so it's almost like my own memory. I see it perfectly: I'm at the Crystal Creek Apartments, where Nana and I lived then. (There's not really a creek, just a big dirty fountain in front.) I'm playing outside with a girl named Cecelia when the thunderstorm starts. We live in North Carolina, and storms happen all the time in the spring and summer. We watch from behind a toolshed. For some reason, I climb on the chain link fence. Maybe 8-year-old me was a daredevil; 12-year-old me definitely is not.


Lightning strikes the fence, and the electricity runs through the metal links and then through me. Some of the current even jumps from me to Cecelia. I'm knocked out. Cecelia is just knocked over. She runs and gets help. Joe, the maintenance man, uses a defibrillator on me because the electricity from the lightning stopped my heart. The electricity from the defibrillator starts it back up.


I do remember the hospital and the black burns on my pale hands. I remember pretending to be asleep while Nana prayed next to my bed. I only stayed in the hospital 1 night. The doctors did all their tests. They said my heart took a 2- to 5-minute nap. (I hate that no one knows the exact number.) They said I was lucky and I'd be fine. Back to normal in a few days. But doctors are wrong sometimes.


A week later, Nana and I were watching TV, and a commercial came on for a used-car dealership. The man was screaming, so I had to pay attention.


"That's $359 a month for 48 months, folks." He was really loud. "Nobody beats Frank Fontana. Nobody."


I yelled back, "17,232."


"What?" Nana asked.


"That's how much the car costs," I said.


"Did you read it on the TV?"


"I just know. 359 times 48 is 17,232."


Nana frowned and shook her head. But then she got up and went to find a calculator.


"What were those numbers again?" she asked.


I told her, and she punched them in. "And the answer?"




"You're right." She sounded surprised. I wasn't surprised, but I guess I should have been. I mean, I was only in 2nd grade, and we were still learning addition and subtraction.


Nana turned off the television.


"What's 99 times 88?" she asked.


"8,712. Can we have McDonald's for dinner?" I asked.


Nana ignored me and asked another math problem and then another. She kept using bigger numbers, more digits. But it never got harder.


The doctors call my condition acquired savant syndrome. Savant means that my math skills are far beyond normal, and acquired means I wasn't born with this wacky ability. I got it because I was holding a metal fence during a lightning storm. Cecelia didn't get any special powers. We stopped being friends soon after that. I was busy trying to understand my new brain, and in the fall Nana and I moved.


Acquired savant syndrome is caused by brain damage. I can't say that in front of Nana. She thinks it's a miracle. My uncle Paul likes to think of it as a superpower, something from a comic book or a movie. But really, I'm brain damaged. Part of my left lobe has been turned off, and now my right lobe works overtime.


My condition is really rare. I've never met anyone with it. It's even rarer in females, and superrare in kids. 1 of my doctors, Dr. Emily Bahri, specializes in savant syndrome. She's worked with a lady who can make a drawing so realistic it looks like a photo, and with a guy who can speak any language after hearing it only a few times. I'm her only acquired savant patient. Years ago, Dr. Bahri did have a guy who, after hitting his head on the bottom of a swimming pool, could suddenly play the piano. He'd never taken a single lesson. But that guy is dead now from old age.


My supercomputer brain can do more than add, subtract, multiply, and divide (which is no more impressive than a $3 calculator). I can also do calendar math. January 14, 1901, was a Monday. July 2, 1975, was a Wednesday. September 30, 2055, will be a Thursday. (Google can do this, too, and almost as fast.)


I also see math. Every number has its own color and shape. Take the number 5--it's a jelly bean shape, red-brown, like the color of Carolina mud. The number 12 is a set of cream-colored squares. The number 47 is a fluorescent-orange oval. Prime numbers have curves. Non-primes have hard edges.


These colors and shapes make it fun and easy to play with numbers, and I can find patterns in anything from the stock market to baseball games to the price of cereal. Nana likes to bargain shop.


And then there's my number memory ability. I remember every set of numbers I hear or see, like license plates or phone numbers or the digits of pi (π).


Pi is my favorite mathematical constant. But because the digits of pi after the point go on forever, I only let myself recite the numbers to the 314th decimal place.




These digits repeat in my brain even when I don't want them to. It's like getting a song stuck in your head. Only for me, it's always the same song. Incredibly annoying, but still beautiful.


Being a savant does have its downsides. Like the guy who hit his head in the pool and could play the piano? He was blind after the accident. I'm not blind, but I do have my own issues. When people meet me, they expect Einstein or Maryam Mirzakhani (if they're familiar with recent mathematical geniuses). But instead, they get the 1 and only freaky-strange Lucy. The girl who can't sit down without making you stare at her because she needs to do it 3 times. The girl who would rather calculate your age down to the hour than talk about your hobbies. The girl who never leaves the house without a supply of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.


Lucky for me--and everybody else--I rarely have to meet people. I'm a reclusive genius.

Excerpted from The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A lightning strike gave her a super power...but even a super genius can't solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test--middle school!

Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty's smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

"An engaging story, full of heart and hope. Readers of all ages will root for Lucy, aka Lightning Girl. No miscalculations here!" --Kate Beasley, author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness

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