Just released today is M. Ann Jacoby's debut novel Life After Genius.
Teddy Fegley is smart, very smart - in fact he's a genius. Having endured taunts and teasing all his life in his small town of High Grove, he is more than ready to escape this - and his mother. He refers to his mother as the six legged monster for her annoying habit of sitting in a chair watching him. Teddy is excited to go to University. He is young, only fifteen, but is more than ready to start fresh and decides to go by his middle name - Mead - and leave Teddy behind.
Cruelly, Mead discovers there will be no fresh start, other than academically. He struggles to fit in and find his place, but is again subjected to ridicule. He immerses himself in his studies and excels. His work on the Riemann Hypothesis - a math equation- is second to none.
A few days before his graduation, he abruptly leaves school and runs back home. Herman, the one friend he had made, may be at the root of the leaving. Mead wonders if he has foiled Herman's scheme.
"...watching his master plan crumble to pieces before his eyes...'
What scheme, what plan, what could Herman have possibly done to Mead that would make him leave his beloved studies?
At home his mother is determined to get to the bottom of things and fix it all. His father is patient, understanding and willing to let Mead tell him what's going on when he is ready to. Mead joins his father and uncle at the family furniture and undertaking business.
We are witness to the struggles of Teddy's childhood, and Mead's efforts to overcome the 'genius' label placed on him by both his family and the town. His family is not immune to discord either. There are many unresolved issues that come to light with Mead's return to High Grove. The story is told back and forth, from High Grove to the Chicago University. We slowly piece together what has happened between Mead and Herman.
It was sometimes difficult to read of the cruelty dished out to Teddy/Mead. He gamely keeps trying, optimistic again and again. He often does what he thinks is the right thing, only to have it turn out 'wrong'.
M. Ann Jacoby based the character of Mead on her father, who was also a math genius. You can watch a video here of her discussing Life Before Genius.
I enjoyed this novel very much. Mead is an engaging character, with a wonderful sense of humour and an indomitable spirit. Other characters are also drawn well, eliciting strong responses. This is a truly moving story of a young man who is book smart, but struggling to find his way outside of the books. You'll find yourself cheering for and laughing with Mead as he struggles to find his place in the world.
This is a great new release from Hachette Books . You can have a peek inside below...
Or see what some of my fellow bloggers thought of it;