Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Girl Named Digit - Review

Title: A Girl Named Digit
Author: Annabelle Monaghan
Tags: Young Adult, FBI, terrorism, Los Angeles, CIA, teen crush, action, romance, math, code, genius
Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books For Children
ISBN-10: 054766852X
ISBN-13: 978-0547668529

Publisher's Description:
Farrah "Digit" Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group's number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping-- all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in . . .

Rating: By film industry standards I think the book would be rated "PG." There's just a couple of curse words, some underage drinking, and a chaste romance between the 17 year old heroine and her 21 year old FBI handler.

I'm a fan of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society series. I chose to read A Girl Named Digit because the description reminded me of those stories: strong female lead dealing with typical teenage issues of friendships and boys, all the while engaged in very atypical, Mission Impossible style covert operations. Nothing too serious, aside from saving the free world from homicidal terrorist organizations. Just a light, fun, action-packed read. Ally Carter's books definitely deliver, but I feel A Girl Named Digit falls just a fraction short.

It's a shame, actually. Monaghan's story held a lot of promise for me. I like detective/spy stories and I like math. The television show NUMB3RS was one of my favorites and I thoroughly enjoyed the nonfiction book In Code written by Sarah Flannery, who was also a teenage math genius. There are some pretty cool descriptions of mathematical codes, but much of the story, especially the FBI related stuff, isn't very believable. So the FBI has a Willy Wonka elevator that runs underground from their Los Angeles headquarters to various warehouse districts in the city?

But it's not just technical details that bothered me. Characters often acted in unbelievable ways as well, especially Farah's parents. The lightning-fast romance between the ambitious, goal oriented FBI agent and the teenager whose safety is his primary mission strained credibility. In order to enjoy a fun, light-hearted novel I was perfectly willing to accept the possibility of this romance occurring, but I just couldn't accept the speed with which John flipped the switch from professional FBI wunderkind to love-sick highschooler. And even though he wasn't a math genius, I would think that an Ivy League educated, 21 year old federal agent would at least be able to say "Fibonacci", even if he didn't have a thorough understanding of the number sequence.

I wasn't expecting a "literary novel", all character development or weighty philosophical issues. I was expecting a solid novel with some fun action, quirky characters and witty one-liners. Monaghan almost gets there. Almost. There's some good humor here and Farah's character, at least, is fairly well written. But I just think the deficiencies detract too much from the story. It's a very short book, under 200 pages. I think Monaghan could have added another 50-100 pages and developed some of the characters and scenes a little better.

Based on the humor, descriptions of scenery, and some cool math, I'll still give A Girl Named Digit three turntables. But it could have been better. If you're expecting Ally Carter here, be prepared for disappointment.

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