Fresh, inventive, and surprisingly sweet. Three stars for a fun (though laborious) MG read with an unfortunate scene of street harassment.

One of my most anticipated April releases!

Book Cover: The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day

“As in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, math and science inform this mind-bending mystery about a girl who must work with the laws of the universe and trust the love of her family if she is to set her world right.

It’s the morning of Maisie’s tenth birthday, and she can’t wait to open her presents. Maisie is not a typical kid. What she wants most for her birthday are the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house, and outside the front door is nothing but an unsettling, all-consuming blackness–a shifted reality. Even for super-smart Maisie, these puzzling circumstances seem out of her control . . . or are they?”

If you read the synopsis thinking that this is a scenario, sure, but hardly a story, then you’d be right on the money. There’s a bit of a story here, but between the science lessons and the flashbacks (flash-sidewayses?) there’s no clear linear plot.

Funny Farm movie still
“You never know when anything’s taking place! In the first 20 pages alone, I counted three flashbacks, one flash-forward, and I think a page in, you have a flash-sideways.”

At most, we’re following an emotional, cerebral arc. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it’ll be frustrating if you’re expecting more traditional Middle Grade.

Other reviewers mentioned that there’s an awful lot of science in this book, and I didn’t really take them seriously… but wow. There’s a TON of science in here–I mean that in terms of quantity, not density.

This is obviously what the book is going for– a riff on the major breakthroughs of the last 50/100 years in physics, seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old prodigy having the weirdest day. It’s a great idea, and some of it is executed very well. Edge does a great job boiling down some of the more complex and theoretical concepts to a paragraph and using MG-appropriate language.

In my opinion, however, there are just too many different concepts crammed into this one book. The story would have been much stronger if he had picked two or three of these ideas (say, relativity, infinity/Mobius strip, and black holes) and given them more room to breathe. The book jumped to a new major idea every couple of pages, and if I weren’t already familiar with these terms, I wouldn’t have had the stamina to follow them.

Book cover: The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day
Very different look for this cover.

This book will likely be appealing to a young reader who is on the verge of jumping right into adult sci-fi but would just as soon read something with a more relatable character. I worry, however, that many will be turned off by the protagonist (why is she a next-level prodigy? wouldn’t the story work just fine if she were a garden-variety genius?) and the sheer volume of mini science lessons.

I also want to mention that the story has a dark edge that I wasn’t expecting. There’s some emotional weight to the last quarter of the book that will probably fall on readers who aren’t ready for it (in fun twisty ways and in jarring, horrifying ways). By the end, however, it’s all come together into something rather sweet and uplifting.

A final note: This book might have gotten four stars from me if it weren’t for a baffling scene of street harassment inserted halfway through the story apropos of nothing. While walking with her young teenage sister, Maisie sees some boys catcall her sister. One even goes to far as to physically block their path until the sister obeys his demand to smile. Maisie is taken-aback by the incident, but her sister doesn’t really discuss it; the implication seems to be that Maisie is getting a glimpse into growing up and that capitulating to bullying and sexual harassment is just the price of doing business. The incident is never addressed by the book. I was floored. This single scene brought the book down a whole star for me, and I wavered about going all the way down to two. In 2019, I don’t understand why this is acceptable.

I received a free eARC of this book from Delacourte Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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