The Summer Experiment
By Cathie Pelletier
Published 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Roberta is expecting another boring summer in Northern Maine when mysterious lights in the sky appear and change everything. Now, Roberta is determined to turn the story behind those lights into an award-winning science fair project, if only she can convince her best friend Marillee to help.
This book had a double appeal factor for me: middle grade (which I am always trying to read more of) and set in Maine (I'll read anything set in my home state). In this case, however, those appeal factors didn't hold up the rest of the book.
This book is very slow-moving and, though it's not terribly long (is it weird that I don't think nearly 300 pages is very long anymore?), I wonder how many kids will have the patience for it. It is also very clearly set in Maine - being from that lovely state, this book felt very familiar. It has a very Maine-style of storytelling and I'm not sure how well that will translate to kids in other parts of the country. Additionally, the plot is a bit all over the place. There is the story of the mysterious lights, the story of the antagonistic relationship between Roberta and her brother, the story of Marillee's feelings about her parents, the story of the science fair - it just feels a bit too much all in one book. Nothing ever feels fully developed and some of the stories just seem to peter out without much of a conclusion. Finally, I felt the ending both way too out of left field and way too convenient to really work for me. Readers who enjoy overly precocious narrators may find this one appealing, but it wasn't a favorite of mine.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.