A Girl Named Digit by Annabelle Monaghan

Lynn: Seventeen-year-old Farrah Higgins is a math genius.  She can see math patterns instantly, topped the nation in math test scores and is heading to MIT in the fall.  Once nicknamed “Digit,” Farrah has spent her high school years hiding her gift, hanging with a popular and apparently brainless group and trying to be “normal.  While watching a TV show, Farrah spots a string of numbers that are repeated three weeks in a row and her brain shifts out of idle.  When she realizes the numbers are related to a recent terrorist attack, Farrah talks to her Dad and they go to the FBI – where no one will take her seriously.  But Farrah won’t give up and when her investigations lead her right to the terrorist cell she has to run for her life.  This time the FBI does listen and, accompanied by a handsome rising young star in the Bureau, Farrah is on the trail  – and in serious danger.

Digit’s voice is unique and immediate and it was the strength of the voice and her fascinating gift that captured me.  I don’t know a teen with a Digit’s mathematical genius but I do know far too many gifted young people – especially girls – who do all they can to hide what makes them exceptional and it was this strong thread that was at the heart of the book.  There’s plenty more here though.  This is a sweet romance, a clever puzzle and a satisfying coming of age story all wrapped up in one terrific heart-pounding thriller.  And make no mistake, this is quite a thriller!  Schemes, double-crosses and nasty villains kept me reading far into the night.

I read this book which was originally titled “Digit”  in a plain cover galley.  OK – the cover WAS pink but I have to say I was taken aback when I saw the final cover.  While it’s attractive I’m not convinced that the cover really conveys the essence of this smart suspenseful story.  You may have to push it to the teens who will relate to it best but I guarantee that anyone who starts it won’t be able to put it down till they’ve galloped to the end!

Cindy: Check reality at the door for this one, folks. I like this mystery for all the reasons Lynn does, but Holy Fibonacci Series, Batman, you have to be willing to forgive a lot. Let’s say our young math genius does manage to connect the dots between the number code to the terrorists to the extent that she has to fake a kidnapping and go into hiding to save her life. And let’s say the FBI let’s the young agent and 17 year-old “hottie” hole up on mattresses in a warehouse and delegates the translation and decoding of phone transcripts to these two who then figure out where an important item is hidden. Why, oh WHY, if she was in such danger in L.A. that she had to go into hiding would the FBI allow her to travel with the agent to Grand Central Station in NYC to look for the clue. Yeah, no danger there. Good grief. But teen mysteries have always been fraught with these problems. How many teens are in the position to get involved with real mysteries? My middle schoolers love Finding Lubchenko by Michael Simmons and it certainly requires a similar suspension of belief.

Even with these quibbles, the book is a page turner and the romance and the issue of Farrah embracing her academic talents will make this a fun summer beach read to recommend. I mean, who is this past Nancy Drew addict to criticize a mystery for having some lapses in reality? And, truth be told, I am still haunted by a past female middle school student who refused to read any fiction unless it included math. I was worn to a frazzle finding her books she would read. I would buy this just in memory of that girl.





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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