I loved the premise behind Annabel Monaghan’s A Girl Named Digit – seventeen year old Digit is a math genius whose ability to recognize numerical patterns leads her to uncover a terrorist plot and she is recruited by the FBI to track the bad guys down. Sure, the premise is far-fetched, but the story had the potential to be a fun, fast-paced thriller with lots of awesome math nerditude.
Instead, we get fluff. Digit’s ability to see mathematical patterns is certainly impressive, but we get perhaps only three instances where this helps the investigation. Most of the time, we get a Lizzie McGuire type character whose reactions to events are immature at best. It’s understandable that Digit wants to try to fit in at school by hiding her mathematical prowess and pretending to be a ditzy Party Girl, but even when on the run with the FBI and free to be 100% Digit, she seems more concerned about kissing the hot FBI agent than about escaping the bad guys. In a publishing industry with such kick ass heroines as Katniss Everdeen, or heck, even Kim Possible, Digit’s lack of common sense is just grating. I understand that not every girl is a Kim Possible, and that the book is meant to be a lighthearted beach read rather than a thought-provoking tome, but seriously: you’re on the run from bad guys known for torturing people, you know they’re planning something soon and they want to kill you before you can stop them, you’re in a cab with a tense FBI agent and a mysterious bag and all you can think of is whether or not the FBI agent will kiss you? Seriously? I don’t care how hot he is, there are somewhat more important matters at stake.
And what was the point of Digit making the stupid decision to keep her (easily trackable!) cell phone when all she did with it was read text messages from a friend about bikinis and the prom? I would understand if she wanted to keep the connection to her real life, and perhaps saw those text messages as comfort, but she just found them annoying. Digit’s ditziness is even more annoying because of her sense of superiority over her school friends — she views them as vapid and thinks she has to hide her own intelligence to fit in. This would be annoying enough if Digit actually showed her smarts, but instead, she just came off like a delusional Mean Girl.
The mystery/thriller part of the book gets woefully buried under piles of rom com, which frankly is more boring than it is witty. Digit’s math skills do come into play at the end, but for the most part, any Hillary Duff or Selena Gomez character could’ve been in Digit’s shoes and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The worst part is, the book started off really well. I love the description of how Digit feels compelled to hide her math smarts in order not to seem weird — she was a real, sympathetic character. Unfortunately, Monaghan falls into the Stephenie Meyer trap and sacrifices her intriguing premise to focus on the romance. The book is touted as Da Vinci Code meets Clueless but is more a Disney Channel TV show than anything.
Finally, as with Twilight, the idea that romance is far superior to anything else, including a career, bugs me. In A Girl Named Digit, the FBI agent, John, admits he wants to enter an elite program that will unfortunately prevent him from pursuing romantic relationships or having a family, but will for some reason be even more awesome than being a regular FBI agent. It’s a sacrifice John’s father refused to make so he could marry John’s mother, and good on him for being happy with that decision. My problem is that Digit expects John to give up this dream to be with her. She’s seventeen! And perhaps they really are the loves of each other’s lives, but a couple of weeks of romance is hardly enough for John to give up a lifelong dream. Digit’s heartbroken reaction to this may be understandable, but the shallowness of Monaghan’s writing just makes Digit seem bratty rather than sympathetic.
I love the premise of a young girl using her brains to stop bad guys — we need more brainy heroines, I think. Digit, despite her ability with numbers, just isn’t one of them.
Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.