Thursday, August 16, 2012
BOOK REVIEW: "Life After Genius"
By M. Ann Jacoby
Grand Central Publishing
Gotta love the smart kids. You know, the ones who skip ahead a grade. Then skip ahead again. Life After Genius is a story about one such kid from a small town (the kind of small town where people get trapped in a dead-end life and can never leave). The boy was named Theodore Mead Fegley. Teddy, as he was called throughout childhood, leaves for college in the big city at the age of 15, decides on a new persona and begins answering only to his middle name of Mead. Mead fits into the college scene like a square peg in a round hole, but muddles through and eventually begins to thrive.
So much so that when he is on the verge of proving an important math hypothesis but packs up and leaves school right before graduation instead, everyone around him scrambles to find out why.
Mead goes home to the small town and his eclectic family, including a helicopter mom (you know who you are) and an undertaker father. He tries to fit back into that world, even helping his father clean up the dead before burial, but won't answer anyone's questions about why he left college in the first place.
As the story unfolds we find out details about another smart kid named Herman who was in college with Mead. Herman, it turns out, had become somewhat of a friend to Mead. We learn he had something to do with Mead fleeing school but we don't yet know what the connection might be.
We also read about Mead's cousin, Percy, who had recently died a tragic death after escaping the small town post-high school and fleeing to the big city. One of the most profound moments in the book is when Mead is talking to Percy's ex-girlfriend about why they had broken up. She says, "I think I reminded him of his past. And he didn't want to be reminded. It was almost as if he feared being sucked back in." As someone who grew up in a small town and escaped out into the bigger world, I can completely relate to this sentiment.
I really enjoyed the flow of the writing in this story. I am also not usually a big fan of suspense, but there was just enough of that to keep me wondering page after page what was going to happen next. Oh, and I liked the clever cover of the boy's legs with two different colored socks (as a parent of a smarty-pants child who frequently wears two different colored socks, it struck a nerve). Good writing. Good story. Good ending. This is a recommend.