A Girl Named Digit is a young adult novel about a 17-year-old math genius who ends up on the run (with a very young, handsome FBI agent), hiding from domestic terrorists. Farrah (also known as Digit) is actually pretty good at hiding - she's spent her tenure in Santa Monica High School hiding her abilities from her friends, pretending to be popular and normal. But when she cracks a numeric code that she sees in the corner of her television screen, and realizes that she could potentially have stopped a suicide bombing in New York, Digit has no choice but to dig further. A Girl Named Digit opens with Farrah's fake kidnapping, flashes back to the events leading up to her involvement, and moves forward with a coast-to-coast chase.
The plot of A Girl Named Digit is so over the top that it is virtually satire (shades of Libba Gray's Beauty Queens, though not as funny). Even as Digit is hiding out in a warehouse, supposedly kidnapped, she's receiving vapid text messages from one of her friends about the prom. John, the FBI agent she is working with is ludicrously attractive as well as brilliant (and wealthy, and ... well, I won't spoil the rest). But he also has a weakness for terrible puns. Digit's Mom is a second tier actress, who dresses perfectly for the news cameras after her daughter's "kidnapping." And so on.
Still, I have to say that I really enjoyed A Girl Named Digit. How great is it to read a book about a girl who is a math genius, and uses that ability to avert threats to national security? Digit sees patterns everywhere, and as a child had panic attacks if she saw, say, a bunch of numbers that weren't logically related to one another. She collects bumper stickers, and arranges them at perfect right angles in her bedroom. Sure, she also hides her talents in high school, fitting in by never expressing an opinion of her own about anything. But that's just background - readers see her as she is. Like this:
"... I never initiate a conversation but respond in a group with "Cool" or "Me too." My favorite song is whatever everyone else seems to be into, and I'm dying go see whatever movie you suggest. Honestly, it's a pretty easy way to live. All you have to do is shut yourself down and become a mirror for whomever you're talking to. (Also try not to use "whomever," even if it is correct to use it as a pronoun modifying the object of the verb. It qualifies as Digit-speak.)" (Page 8-9)
"We printed out Creepy's face and went up three flights to what passed for their CSI lab. It differed from TV in two majors ways: first, it was populated by both attractive and unattractive people and, second, the lights were on. All the way." (Page 39)
"The view was like a spa for my mind. Central Park is a perfectly shaped giant rectangle, and from a distance all of the trees appear to be the exact same height. The kidney shaped reservoir is slightly off center but is balanced by kidney-shaped meadows dotted by baseball diamonds." (Page 111)
Yes, Digit is a character I liked, and will remember. I'd be happy to read more books about her.
The action in A Girl Named Digit isn't realistic, perhaps, but it is fast-paced and intriguing. I found myself wondering which characters might not be as they initially seemed, and also trying to crack codes myself along the way. There are examples of Fibonacci sequences and check-sum digits, as well as Caesar shift codes (this would be a great companion novel to Kristen Cashore's Bitterblue, in terms of the codes). I thought that Monaghan did a great job of including these mathematical details without making the explanations dry (though I'm not sure how an audio version of the book would work).
Give A Girl Named Digit to any teens you know who are into math (whether openly or secretly) or spy novels. There is a romantic sub-plot (including wanting to but not actually having sex), and a bit of an obligatory rom-com movie ending, but I still think that there's enough humor and action to make this book boy- and girl-friendly. Recommended for anyone who doesn't take their thrillers too seriously, and likes reading about intelligent characters.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).