Books: The Absolute Value of Mike
I read books aloud for Learning Ally, a nonprofit that provides low-cost audiobooks to people with reading-related disabilities. I mostly read nonfiction textbooks, since the service is aimed at students. Occasionally, I get to read fiction, like "The Absolute Value of Mike," a novel by Kathryn Erskine:
The book's protagonist is Mike Frost, a fourteen year-old who lives with his absent-minded, genius professor father. Like a lot of teens, Mike is torn between fulfilling his parent's expectations and finding his own path. In this case, Mike's father wants him to enroll in the science-and-math-centric Newton high school, but Mike (who suffers from dyscalculia) doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps.
Mike thinks he finds the perfect way to placate his dad when Mike is sent away for the summer to do an engineering project, an "artesian screw." Needless to say, things spin wildly out of control, and soon Mike is hanging out with a homeless health food nut, trying to revive his catatonic great-uncle, and raising money to adopt a Romanian orphan.
"The Absolute Value of Mike" is a breezy coming-of-age story, with a so-so plot and memorable characters. Even the people who are mostly comic relief - like Mike's Mr. Magoo-like great-aunt, Moo - get some nice dramatic beats. In particular, I think most young readers will like Mike, who is a good kid at heart but often angry and put-upon. The book is a fun read for a grade or middle-schooler, and I'm glad it was assigned to me.