Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Yee, L.
ISBN: 0439425190
Scholastic Press
2003

BOOK REVIEW (Davidson Young Scholars) - This article offers seven book reviews of the novel Millicent Min, Girl Genius from Davidson Young Scholars. The 2003 book by Lisa Yee, about an 11-year-old girl attending high school, received mixed reviews from our seven Young Scholars who reviewed the book. Two did not care for it, but the others seemed to like it a lot! Read all of the reviews here.

Review by an 11-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued. I wondered if someone had finally taken enough care to understand the world of truly gifted children. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Although the book certainly has eye candy-like appeal, (It's broken into diary entries) it doesn't even attempt to convey the thing that, for me at least, I most wish people would understand--that we're not really much different than anybody else! Instead, author Lisa Yee chooses to emphasize our "different-ness" rather than our similarities to other kids our age. Just off the top of my head, I can think of lots of things that Millicent did that I was surprised at. She once stayed up for several days doing a math equation, is appalled when her mom signs her up for volleyball, is always on time (that's a good thing!) and makes lists (lists!) before she goes over to a new friend's house because she doesn't know what to say to a "normal" girl her own age. Although lots of people like math, plenty dislike sports, lots of people are on time, and lots of people make lists, I think we'd all agree that being a "genius" doesn't have much bearing on those things. Except the lists. Lists are good most of the time, but I thought she could have at least thought of something to say!

Anyway, all of those things are fine in their place, but all rolled into one it's a little too stereotypical. Plus, a big deal is made in the book about her "hiding" her intellect from her friend. I know that some people are taken aback by knowing that their friend is a "genius", but, at least the way I see it, any friend who can't handle something so important is a friend I'm better off without. Millicent does eventually undergo the usual transformation to a more "normal" kid, and although she then ends up with a friend her age, she has to give this little psychoanalyzing speech after her friend finally finds out the truth about her intelligence before they finally reconcile! And anyway, the book has to wait until page 207, and all preceding time (at least in my eyes) is spent stereotyping Millicent until she is unrecognizable as an 11-year-old girl, genius or not. After she reunites with her friend, so many things change about her that it seems almost as if she's been de-geniused...and to say that, you have to attribute those characteristics to her intellect in the first place, an unrealistic viewpoint. To top it all off, there's this annoying little subplot that's meant to add conflict, I guess, but it was just plain annoying to me! She has to tutor (more stereotypes!) this irritating boy who to her seems unintelligent, dumb even, and mean to boot. Of course, that all turns out in the end, and all is well in Millicent's world.

I found it incredibly hard to find anything good about the book. You could say that her normalization at the end was good, but it was less than believable and would have been unnecessary had she been more "normal" to begin with. Apologies to the author, whose intentions no doubt were good, but I saw Millicent Min, Girl Genius to be a book written about geniuses...without regard to the real kids that fall under that category.

Review by a 10-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

Millicent Min Girl Genius is Lisa Yee's first novel. It is one of the top five fiction books I've read, and I am looking forward to reading her next one! Lisa Yee is very structured as Millie is also. Lisa Yee presents this chronicle to you as a diary and a book. Millicent gives you a very descriptive documentary of her life from June 7 to September 3.

Millicent starts off as she shows you her tangled life as a genius.

"All the students look so much older than me. Yet that's to be expected. It' s hard to believe I will be a senior next year. When I look back at my childhood, it doesn't seem like so long ago. Maddie swears it's because childhood is a state of mind. My mother insists that it's because I am only eleven years old. Whatever."

In the book, Millie shows you how she made a friend, lost a friend, made another friend, met a long-time arch-foe, and almost lost a friend to her foe!

How problematic life is when you are a genius--being called a nerd, bullied, harassed, and made fun of. It is difficult if you are a genius!

Millie's mother tells Millie that she will have to tutor Stanford Wong, her arch-nemesis for the whole summer. She thinks Millie needs to be more socialized, and Millie also discovers that her mother signed her up for volleyball!

Later, Millie discovers that these two things helped her to grow. Then to make things even better, Millie meets Emily. She is a bright young girl who was misled by Stanford Wong when he lied to Emily and said that he was tutoring Millie. In reality Millie was the one tutoring Stanford. Meanwhile, Emily falls in love with Stanford. Millie becomes furious when Emily falls in love with Stanford because she thinks Stanford will take her best and only friend. For a while all Emily wants to do is hang out with Stanford until she discovers Millie is hurt.

Unfortunately, later in the book Millie almost lost Emily as her friend. Millie and Emily finally apologized to each other, and they became friends again.

This book is more geared toward gifted children who are 10 and older in my personal opinion. In this novel you feel like you are right next to Millie throughout the whole book, yet she doesn't know you! As you read the book you feel you are watching High-Definition TV (crystal-clear images). There is only one thing I found objectionable in this book, the usage of the words, "Oh, my G*d," etc. "Oh, my gosh" would have been preferable. In spite of this, Lisa Yee received an A+ on my grading scale (what else?).

Review by a 9-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

This is a great book! It was touching, funny, and interesting. I felt really close to Millicent, and I felt as if I was her the whole time. This book is one of the best I've ever read. Funny yet serious from beginning to end, Millicent Min, Girl Genius is a cool book for boys and girls of all ages.

It's about 11-year-old Millicent Min, a girl genius. She goes to high school. She meets a girl named Debbie, but she makes other friends. Millicent's grandmother, Maddie, wants her to have a more "normal" life, and signs her up for volleyball. Millicent hates volleyball because she's not good at it, and a girl named Julie teases her about it. Millicent is assigned to tutor Stanford Wong. He never cooperates, and he never listens. Millicent meets a girl named Emily. She's an average, everyday girl with a "book freak" for a mom. Emily doesn't know Millicent's a genius, but when she does find out, she gets mad because Millicent didn't tell her at first. Millicent tells Emily she's sorry, and they become friends again. Maddie moves out for a while, and Millicent, Emily and their families went to the Labor Day Fiesta. There's a big roller coaster, and Millicent is so scared to go on. In the end, Millicent's mom gets sick, but it turns out, she's having a baby!

The message of the book is life isn't easy when you're a genius! People might think you're geeky, and people might not want to be your friend. Being a genius is hard--but sometimes it's fun! I would recommend Millicent Min, Girl Genius to all kids like Millicent--smart, hard-working, and funny. I like pretty much all the characters, and my favorite part was when Millicent and Emily went to the Labor Day Fiesta. Millicent must have been scared to death on that roller coaster! Overall, I think this is a great book for kids!

Review by an 11-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius is a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. It was funny, fast-paced and interesting. The characters were fully developed and believable, with bad aspects of their personality as well as good aspects presented in the book. This was a fun book to read.

Although Millicent was a great character to read about, she was not so easy for me to relate to. Sure, I am taking college and high school courses like her, and I am also learning above my age level, but the similarities pretty much end there.

I think that although Millicent's academic life was certainly a believable representation of gifted students today; her social life was a bit exaggerated. That may just be because I live in a different type of community, but I couldn't really believe the problems that Millicent was having in her social life.

I have friends who don't care that I'm taking college courses, and I don't make any effort to hide the fact that I am.

I just can't imagine having to hide my intelligence from someone to seem more popular, like Millicent did to Emily. It didn't seem like Emily would care about Millicent's intelligence. Now, I can believe that, if Millicent had been tormented by her fellow high-schoolers and eleven-year-olds for being smart, that she may have believed that Emily would have been mean to her if Emily found out how smart she was. But my opinion is that if Emily really cared about how smart Millicent really was, Emily probably wasn't a friend worth having. And in the end, Emily got mad at Millicent for lying, not for being smart.

Now, just because this is my opinion, doesn't mean that it's true. I have a very different social life and academic program from Millicent. I am taking all except one of my courses online, so the people in these online courses don't know how old I am, and thus, they can't make any judgments about me. The one course where I do interact with other people is my Spanish 101 class. Because this is a college course, I am a lot younger than the other students in the class. Everyone there just thinks I'm a little kid, which I am. Don't get me wrong, everyone is nice, but what I'm saying is that I am too young for the other students to be concerned that I'm there. They watch over me without hovering.

So, here's my overall opinion of the book. It's a wonderful, funny, interesting and enjoyable book, with great characters. The characters are believable, and Millicent's academic program is believable and easy for me to relate to. However, I have not had the same social experiences as Millicent, and that makes it harder to relate to or believe her social life. But that doesn't make the book any less interesting or well-written! All in all, I think it was a really great book, and I can't wait for Lisa Yee's next book.

Review by a 9-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

In Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, the main character is a brilliant girl who is 11 and a half years old and who lets her academic ability go to her head. In the book, Millicent realizes she needs friends in her life and cannot rely on her intellectual abilities for everything. One of the most accurate representations is the reaction to Millicent's excessive smartness of the people she encounters during the summer. It was also good to find a character I could relate to because she skipped a bunch of grades and loves math.

However, most of the characters are not three-dimensional enough. They never seem to have many mood changes until the very end of the book. The novel maintains some stereotypes about gifted kids, such as the facts that Millicent is not good at sports, is a smart-aleck, and is very isolated. This is not always true of gifted kids, though. Millicent approaches every single aspect of life with academics. In one instance, Millicent starts volleyball. She fails to recognize that it does not take precise calculations to excel at a sport. It was humorous, but I didn't like the character as much after that chapter. Millicent also has no common sense, as her age peer Emily points out. This makes it seem like she's not really that smart and she never really enjoys life.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius shows what will happen if you let your intellectual gifts go to your head. You need to not just concentrate on academics, but also have a life outside of school. This theme is the best part of the book and is the only reason I would recommend reading it. However, I wish the main character had been more likable.

Review by an 11-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius, by Lisa Yee, is a book about a gifted girl who struggles with relationships. Millicent is a profoundly gifted 12-year-old who has skipped many grades. When this story occurs, it is the summer before her senior year in high school, and she is enrolled in a summer college poetry class.

Millicent, an only child, has depended on her family to be her friends since she was young. But, she hides her true self from her family because she doesn't want to disappoint her mom and dad. They want Millicent to be a normal child with friends her age. They also want her to be more athletic. Millicent just wants to be left alone to read and study. Although Millicent deep down wants friends, she is worried about getting hurt again, because she hasn't been successful in the past.

The first friend she makes in the book is a college girl named Debbie. Debbie and Millicent talk about psychology and Millicent believes she has a friend who shares her interests. Unfortunately, Millicent finds out that Debbie was just being her friend so that Debbie didn't have to do her own homework. When Millicent found out, she stormed out of the campus library and closed herself off from her family for several days.

Fortunately for Millicent, she meets a new girl at volleyball practice that her parents have forced her to go to. Because of what happened with Debbie, Millicent decides not to tell her new friend Emily how smart she really is. She goes so far as to hide her medals and awards she was previously proud of. When Millicent meets Emily's mom, a renowned journalist, Millicent wants to have a conversation about some of the articles Emily's mom has written, but she pretends interest in what Emily is doing instead. Unfortunately, Emily discovers who Millicent really is and feels betrayed. Millicent works hard to try to restore her friendship with Emily.

I liked this book for many reasons. First of all, there are parts in the book that are extremely humorous. I also understand Millicent's struggles with friendships. It is hard to keep a balance between who you are and who people want you to be. I liked the fact that Millicent found a few adults who actually understood what she was like and her troubles. Although it is hard to read about a character you like having tough times, I would highly recommend this book to others.

Review by a 12-year-old Davidson Young Scholar.

Millicent Min is a young woman who is smart, sometimes too smart for her own good. She is in her senior year of high school, when she is only twelve! She starts taking a college course in poetry, and makes a friend named Debbie. Her "friend" Debbie wasn't too truthful with Millicent, and when Millicent found out Debbie was using her to complete her homework Millicent was crushed.

Millicent's parents signed her up for volleyball, and she made a new friend, Emily. She didn't want to tell Emily about her intelligence and hid the fact that she is tutoring a boy named Stanford Wong. When Emily finds Stanford and Millicent together, Emily assumes that Millicent has been hiding the fact that she needs help with school. When Emily found out the truth, she was very hurt. Millicent couldn't understand that Emily was upset because Millicent didn't trust her with the truth. She thought that once again, her "friend" didn't like her because she was smart.

I liked this book because it shows the situation that some gifted kids find themselves in. I'm also in college and go to middle school. I have had the same problems with socializing. It seems that when you first meet someone, you don't want them to know that you are smart, but if you become friends then not being honest at the beginning of the relationship is a problem. Like Millicent, I've met some pretty cool kids along the way. I would recommend this book because it shows that there is hope in finding friends even if gifted kids have quirks.


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Comments

Contributed by: Davidson Young Scholar on 1/15/2004
I thought this was a good book and I could relate to Millicent because I am in a similar situation as far as schooling and social life experiences.

Contributed by: Davidson Young Scholar on 1/15/2004
This book was not bad, but I did not like the characters very well or think that they would act as they did in a real life situation like the one the book is about.

Contributed by: Davidson Young Scholar on 1/15/2004
I thought this was a fantastic book and think other kids will enjoy reading it too. I really related well to the main character so that made it fun for me to read.

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