Zoe has been going to the Hubbard school all of her life. She knows its an exceptional school – even if she didn’t call teachers by first names and has never taken a real test, she couldn’t help noticing the many, many ways in which all of the staff let the students know that Hubbard is a “very special place.” But Zoe is not sure if she fits in there. She’s not extra specially good at anything, the way it seems that every other kid in the school is. Then she meets Lucas, who is the strangest kid in a school filled with students trying to stand out from the crowd. He’s convinced that Zoe is a code-reading genius, but Zoe isn’t so sure herself. She doesn’t have time to read codes: her best friend is abandoning her, and she’s been threatened with expulsion. What could possibly solve these sorts of problems?
This was a very engaging book, and made me want to turn the pages. I kept being surprised that the book was in third person, since I got a very first person vibe from the tone and language of the writing. This is one of those books that I loved while I was reading it, but have started to question now that I’ve had more time to reflect. If one of Zoe’s issues is that she’s worried, at least a little bit, that she doesn’t have anything special about her, the way her siblings do, then why wouldn’t she have jumped at the chance to be a “genius” when it comes to codes? I also felt like the threat of expulsion was overdone as well. If Zoe’s classwork was really that bad, then there would have been parent/teacher conferences before a step of suspending her for two weeks. (The argument that she was suspended over the notes rather than her schoolwork is not a strong one, since a) those were rumors b) the other kids were just as, if not more, vicious in their retaliation and c) when it became obvious who the culprit was, Zoe was not invited back to school.)
I really liked the portrayal of the relationship between Zoe and Dara. It had the feeling of a friendship that is ready to move on, but the participants are not sure how they feel about that. Middle school is a tough time for a lot of previous friendships. More time could have been spent exploring this aspect of the book, but it was still a strong presence.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, and a quick read. Upper elementary and middle school girls will be sure to enjoy it.