Millicent Min is a kid following the Doogie Howser archetype: even before the story itself begins, you get to know her through her resume. That’s right—she’s 11 and a half and has a resume which includes TV appearances (Leno, a PBS Special on gifted kids), news articles and a long-term objective to be awarded the MacArthur Grant, among other things. And the opening line is spot-on:
I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.
Millie has just finished her junior year of high school, and is taking a poetry class at the community college over the summer—for fun. (It was a compromise with her parents, who felt college was a little too much for an eleven-year-old, but they agreed as long as it wasn’t math-related.) She carries a briefcase, her best (and only) friend is her grandma and she’s terribly embarrassed by her parents.
The book chronicles Millie’s summer: she makes her first college friend who, it turns out, was only interested in having Millie do her psych homework for her. She is forced to join the summer volleyball league by her parents (“Where exactly does volleyball lie in the realm of my intellectual pursuits?”) and finally does make a new friend, Emily, who doesn’t know that’s she’s a genius. Oh, and she’s been hired to tutor Stanford Wong—that shameful Chinese kid who’s about to repeat sixth grade if he doesn’t pass English during summer school.
The book is cute, and you can probably guess at the sort of lessons Millie learns over the course of the summer: that Emily isn’t concerned about her IQ, that Stanford isn’t as much of a jerk as she thinks he is, that there’s more to life than school. (Come to think of it, those are all lessons somebody should have shared with Amy Chua.) While it’s probably not going to be on a list of great works of literature, it’s a pretty solid middle-school book and Yee has fun with what could have been just a caricature.
As a bonus, the copy I had came with a little bonus section called “After Words” including a Q&A with Yee, some examples of cryptarithms (Millie’s favorite puzzles) and some of Millie’s favorite Latin insults. There’s also an excerpt from Yee’s companion book, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-time, which follows the same time period but from Stanford’s point of view instead—it sounds like it could also be a lot of fun. And finally, there’s the third book in the series, So Totally Emily Ebers, in which Emily finally gets to tell her side of the story.
Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad as part of my Stories About Girls series.
Fed to jonathan's brain | January 21, 2011 | Comments (0)