The Science of Being Angry
Algonquin Young Readers
Published May 10, 2022
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About The Science of Being Angry
Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like the time she threw a soccer ball—hard—at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or when jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too roughly.
After a meltdown at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she’s so mad. A new unit in science class makes her wonder if the reason is genetics. Does she lose control because of something she inherited from the donor her mothers chose?
THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY is the third book by Nicole Melleby that I’ve read. Her books, so far, tend to address identity issues as well as some complex mental health challenges that kids face, and I love them for that. All three books point up how confusing it can be to have big feelings, whether anger, depression, or grief. They also show parents grappling with their own fears and worries without letting those things intrude into the story and take center stage.
Joey has a lot of big feelings and a really hard time articulating them. Even though no one specifically articulates what’s happening, I felt like, as a reader, watching her, I could start to see patterns in some of the things that set off her anger. I loved that those clues were there, even though the story isn’t specifically about discovering why she feels the way she feels. The story focuses on recognizing the ways in which her behavior is hurting others and also the journey she and her family face to deciding it’s time for professional support for Joey and her family.
In my own experiences with mental health, we often neglect to think about the part of the journey that THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY brings into the light. We want quick fixes. Or we want to ignore an issue, hoping it will resolve on its own (sometimes they do, so that impulse isn’t always wrong). Someone’s parents can be trying as hard as they can to find the right path forward, and it can still be a messy and painful and confusing process. I feel like this book perfectly nails that experience.
And it also brings readers a lot of hope. Loving someone and continuing to look for solutions matters. Loving someone and continuing to build communication and trust matters. Without being preachy, the book points up a lot of those great strengths that a family can bring. It also addresses the importance of counseling and the positives that can come from that kind of help.
Over all, THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY is another great book by an author I can’t get enough of. I’m so glad I had the chance to read it, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of all the readers who need the hope and encouragement it brings.
If you want to know more about Nicole Melleby’s books, check out my reviews of HURRICANE SEASON and HOW TO BECOME A PLANET.
Content Notes for The Science of Being Angry
Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.
Joey has two moms and likes girls romantically.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Two girls kiss. Some descriptions of affection between Joey’s moms.
Joey pushes, shoves, and sometimes hits other kids, and her Mama.
A boy shoves a girl, hits her in the face with a piece of pizza, and calls her a rude nickname.
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