A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan
I should probably preface this review by saying that A Girl Named Digit is basically a YA spy thriller with a female lead, and I’m a sucker for those. But even though I’ll automatically pick up this kind of book, I tend to be extremely nitpicky once I actually start reading, probably because my hopes are always so high that it’s easy to be disappointed. While Annabel Monaghan’s debut YA novel includes many elements I adored, there were nearly as many things that didn’t work for me.
Farrah has spent years trying to pass as normal. She’s succeeded so well that now, as a high school senior, her best friends are the four most popular girls at school and no one knows Farrah is a major math genius who was nicknamed, derisively, Digit in middle school. While watching television with her friends one night, Farrah sees a string of numbers on the bottom of the TV screen. The same thing happens the next two weeks, but Farrah, desperate to keep geeky Digit in the past, doesn’t mention it to anyone. Once Farrah realizes it’s a code, however, she is compelled to decode it. The dates encoded seem to point to a terrorist attack. Only, by the time Farrah finishes decoding the message, the attack has already happened.
Farrah goes to the FBI with the message, where she is interviewed by an extremely young agent who initially doesn’t believe a thing she says. Soon it’s obvious that Farrah is on to something and she must work with the John, the FBI agent, to catch the terrorists.
So, again, I really wanted to like this book. I mentioned the spy thriller thing before, but it’s also about a female math genius. I was never that good at math myself, and didn’t exactly like the subject, but I will read a YA novel about a girl good at/interested in STEM subjects any day. And there were a lot of individual parts that I did like, such as Farrah’s relationship with her family, John’s pride in Farrah’s abilities, the way Farrah realizes she ignored hints about her friends’ real interests. Plus, a couple of sections I really appreciated after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Although there was some infodumping at the beginning and a romance I wasn’t invested in, my biggest problem was that the story required more suspension of disbelief than I was capable of (maybe I shouldn’t have read it immediately after Fake Mustache?). To name just a couple things, I found it hard to believe Farrah was able to keep her past as Digit and all of her mathematical accomplishments a secret, and that a rookie agent would be assigned to protect/assist Farrah instead of someone more experienced. Even trying to read it as a spoof didn’t make suspending my disbelief any easier, or successful.
Despite these criticisms, I’d still recommend A Girl Name Digit, with the caveat that, even for its genre, it’s on the more implausible end of the spectrum. But ultimately for me, the parts that worked made up for the overall shortcomings.
Book details: published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (ISBN: 9780547668529).
Book source: public library.
Originally read and reviewed during the 48 Hour Book Challenge.