The Friendship Experiment, a middle-grade novel written by first-time author Erin Teagan, could well be considered a geeky girl’s guide to navigating middle school. This isn’t a book peppered with silly illustrations that glosses over life’s ups and downs, but The Friendship Experiment is a story that middle grade kids will relate to–especially if they’re fellow science enthusiasts.
The story follows Madeline Little, a budding scientist just entering middle school. Her BFF is attending a different school, so she’s on her own to make new friends. She’s also dealing with the death of her close grandfather and a chronic illness that runs in her family, so junior high is not off to a great start.
To get through every day, she’s adopted her scientist grandfather’s method of writing “standard operating procedures” or SOPs for anything and everything. From her homegrown microbiology experiments (literally, she grows bacteria in her bedroom) to dealing with annoying, quirky classmates, Maddie’s got an SOP for it.
She writes each SOP carefully in her science notebook. But when her notebook is thumbed through by one of her classmates, Maddie finds herself shunned by her former friends who can’t believe the mean things she’s written.
Not only that, her BFF is now an ex-BFF, her sister is ill, and it’s her fault her dad is having trouble at work. It’s a lot for one middle schooler to deal with.
While so many problems piling on at once may seem improbable, if your kids are ready to move on from the antics of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, The Friendship Experiment is a more realistic look at middle school life with a protagonist that’s just as likable and relatable.
Even better, the story isn’t wrapped up with a nice little bow. It shows that life goes on as we solve some problems and learn to adapt to others, and we’re helped along the way by the support of our family and friends. It’s a valuable lesson that middle grade kids aren’t too young to learn.
If you loved Harriet the Spy as a kid yourself, pick this up to introduce the kids to Maddie the Scientist.
GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.
All images: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt