The Science of Breakable Things
By Tae Keller
Grade Levels: 6+ and Parents
The Science of Breakable Things is a story about science, mental illness, family, and the power of love. If that sounds like a lot, it’s a testament to the ability of Keller to blend these disparate elements into a compelling story. The plot follows seventh-grader Natalie Napoli as she enters an egg-drop science competition at her school. The STEM elements of the story are more than window dressing, and even the chapters themselves follow a structure inspired by the scientific method. But there is a lot more going on in this book than a middle school student’s exploration of science (although that is also worth enjoying).
Natalie’s mother has depression and has retreated further and further from active life. Natalie grows up more with her therapist father than her botanist mother. But when she discovers an old book written by her mother when she was younger and encounters a curious, brilliant, and active woman, she wonders if by some miracle she could bring that version of her mother back into her life. She sets out to win the aforementioned egg-drop competition so that she can use the prize money to fly her mother to the sight of a flower renowned for its resiliency and ability to thrive despite all odds. In so doing, she explores how science and relationships coexist, and the realities of mental health issues. This is a great book for girls interested in STEM, children dealing with mental health challenges, or just anyone who is interested in a compassionate and genuine perspective on mental health issues.