Title: The Science of Being Angry
Author: Nicole Melleby
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 288
Even though I liked this book I think it’s my least favorite one by Nicole Melleby so far. If you’ve never read her work before, I recommend you try In the Role of Brie Hutchens… (which is my favorite) or How to Become a Planet first. I had some issues with this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good but… I was a little bit disappointed.
Joey is a girl with two moms, two twin brothers (she’s a triplet) and a half-brother who all love her and do their best to be supportive of her. However, her severe anger management problems have made her a liability and her family has become worried about her violent outbursts.
Joey feels an immense amount of guilt and shame when she implodes, but she can’t seem to change her behavior. She ends up getting them kicked out of their apartment and she’s always in hot water at school with her teachers and classmates. People can’t figure out why a girl from a good family has so much anger in her. Joey (like Melleby’s other young protagonists) is also gay and is infatuated with her friend Layla, but she doesn’t think Layla feels the same about her.
She goes behind her moms’ backs and starts looking up information about her birth father, trying to understand the possible reasons behind her bad temper. I thought the book did a good job showing how hard it was for Joey to control her outbursts and how helpless and bad she felt afterward. Still, I had a lot of trouble liking Joey. It felt like everybody gave her so much leeway.
She was especially awful to Layla, and I couldn’t understand why Layla still liked her and kept giving her more and more chances. Their relationship didn’t feel developed or explained well enough to understand why Layla was so accommodating. The book also ended somewhat abruptly; I was curious to see Joey in therapy and what she’d be diagnosed with.
I guess this book is unique in that it offered some rare representation of a child character who came from a non-abusive home but still had severe behavioral problems. It’s definitely a reality for some people but it isn’t portrayed very often in fiction. I wondered how people might have behaved differently if Joey was a boy. It wasn’t a bad read but it just wasn’t as memorable as the author’s previous books, and it was hard for me to connect with the main character.