I guess The Friendship Experiment, by Erin Teagan, is actually a middle grade novel, rather than a YA, as I have it tagged on this post. Maybe I need to create a separate middle grade tag, as I may be reading a lot more soon. TFE is the first book of the year assigned in the Parent-Teen Book Club at my son’s middle school. I have to imagine most of the other books in the club we’ll be reading will be middle grade as well….
Maddie’s grandfather, a famous scientist and the person she most looks up to in the world, died over the summer. It was her grandfather who showed her how to write a standard operating procedure (SOP) for tackling any difficult problem in her life. It was her grandfather who encouraged her most in swabbing gross things she finds so she can culture them in agar later and see what grows. And she could really use his advice now, because Maddie just started sixth grade at her new middle school, and things are not going well.
Her best friend from elementary school, who wants to be a scientist just like Maddie, is going to a private school so they hardly ever see each other. The new kids in her classes are weird, especially Riley, who went to Space Camp over the summer and wants to be an astronaut, but is really just a show-off. And her older sister’s Von Willebrand Disease (a type of hemophilia), which Maddie also has, seems to be getting worse. Things are so much more complicated than when she was in elementary school. Without her grandfather’s guidance, how will Maddie deal with these new problems?
This is a really fun book. I mean, it’s just easy to read, Maddie is so likable, and everything moves at a nice, brisk pace. It’s slightly quirky but not enough to be off-putting. I do have one objection, and that’s that one of the major plot twists in the book is lifted straight from Harriet the Spy (do kids not read that book anymore?). I don’t want to give away the twist, but if you’ve read Harriet you probably have a good idea which scene I mean. But this is a great book for middle schoolers, especially those who like science, and their parents who’ve joined them in book clubs.