Tess loves math because it's the one subject she can trust—there's always just one right answer, and it never changes. But then she starts algebra and is introduced to those pesky and mysterious variables, which seem to be everywhere in eighth grade. When even your friends and parents can be variables, how in the world do you find out the right answers to the really important questions, like what to do about a boy you like or whom to tell when someone's done something really bad?
Will Tess's life ever stop changing long enough for her to figure it all out?
Tess is having difficulties navigating the troubled waters of eighth grade. Her best friends are spilling her secrets, a cute classmate's cheated on a test and she can't decide whether or not to tell on him, and she believes that a family friend may have murdered his wife. All a girl can depend on is mathematics and, even then, Tess is learning that the answers aren't as simple as she wishes they were. This novel has an interesting premise: mathematical terms and equations can apply to real-life situations and comfort you when the world seems out of control. However, while the concept is intriguing, the execution is disappointing: there isn't enough action to really make the story a page-turner, and many of the characters are not fully fleshed out. The good news is that Lichtman skillfully captures the teenage voice and she clearly knows her middle school lunchroom politics. Also, the way the characters blow each mundane event out of proportion rings true for this age group. The title and cover are fun; put the book on display and it's likely to circulate.