Book Review: The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby
From the acclaimed author of Hurricane Season, an unforgettable story about what makes a family, for fans of Hazel’s Theory of Evolution and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World.
Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like the time she threw a soccer ball—hard—at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or when jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too roughly.
After a meltdown at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she’s so mad. A new unit in science class makes her wonder if the reason is genetics. Does she lose control because of something she inherited from the donor her mothers chose?
The Science of Being Angry is a heartwarming story about what makes a family and what makes us who we are from an author whose works are highly praised for their presentation of and insights into the emotional lives of tweens.
Can I tell you something? I work in an elementary school, and maybe you could guess that because if you happen to, also, then you know half of all interactions start with, “Can I tell you something?” But… can I tell you something? Working in an elementary school has shown me the just how much anger so many kids have. Not just, like, I got mad and acted out for a second, but the kind of anger that is uncontrolled, that erupts quickly and fiercely. I spend my days listening to slammed doors and meltdowns, to insults thrown, to reactions far bigger than what may seem necessary. But, and now my parenting hat is on, having raised a kid who was very quick to anger when he was younger, who would get triggered by things that made him anxious or were complicated by ADHD stuff, I know there are no “unnecessary” reactions in some of these kids brains—their brains make them do a thing, and sure there are consequences and yes they need to learn to cope with and control/reign in their anger and their reactions, but you’ve got to toss all ideas of appropriate or acceptable or whatever out the window and realize that they need tools, they need time, and they need support. Is it fun to have raised a child who would EXPLODE over what looked to me like very little? No. Is it fun to sit in a library and jump out of my skin when doors slam so hard they shake the walls or to hang back while watching kids throw chairs? No. But listen, I’m like the most type-A person around and even I know you cannot make kids magically conform to expectations nor are any kids at all acting out like that, channeling that much anger, because it’s fun or because they want to. My brain tells me to all kinds of garbage and so does theirs.
All of that is to say, kids are angry. It’s common. And yet I can’t think of any book that really captures what it’s like to deal with that anger inside of you and the fallout from it like this one does. When we’re talking about mental health, about emotions, about the interior lives of children, about the many reasons for therapy, that includes talking about things like anger. So I’m grateful for this book. And that’s the main point of this review, or maybe this is more of a PSA. I want you to know this book exists. I want the angry kids to see an angry kid in a book. I want them to see that angry kid get help. I want the kids who sit in classrooms and side-eye their peers who have rage blackouts to see that the angry kids are just kids, too. And that we all have stuff going on. And some of that stuff sometimes combines with things going on inside of our brains and makes for hard times. So while I burned through this book thanks to great writing, strong characters, and interesting thoughts about nature versus nurture, I wanted to do more than just a quick Post-It review to be sure to draw attention to this very necessary book. It feels good to be seen, even if the part of you that’s being seen is maybe an ugly part, or maybe a hard part, or maybe a shameful part. It’s hard when it seems like no one understands you, like you don’t even understand yourself. But Joey’s story is a hopeful one, full of support and love and steps forward. I hope this book finds a wide audience.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 05/10/2022
Age Range: 9 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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