Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mini Reviews: Little Women || The Science Of Breakable Things

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Series: Little Women #1
Genre: Middlegrade classic
Pages: 777
Publication date: 1868
Content warning: Illness, death, dated language/ideas about race and gender
Available at: Amazon | Book Depository
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Meg—the sweet-tempered one. Jo—the smart one. Beth—the shy one. Amy—the sassy one.

Together they're the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong. Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and they discover that growing up is sometimes very hard to do.

Likes: I wanted to read this classic for years, but I always put it off because it’s 777 pages! I’m a slow reader, so it took me 3 weeks to fight through this thick beast, but I did it! I have conquered Little Women!

This (very long) novel stars four sisters with distinctive personalities. I enjoyed the dynamics between them. They love each other, but they don’t always get along because they’re all opinionated. Each girl likes doing things her own way. Anyone who has sisters could probably relate to the Marchs.

For a novel published in the 1860s, it feels fairly modern. The female characters are independent, outspoken, and not overly obsessed with getting married. They’re more interested in finding jobs to support their family. That’s not something you see often in classic American literature. For most of the book, the girls’ father is fighting in the Civil War, so the kids are being raised by their mother. It’s a very woman-focused novel (which should have been obvious from the title, now that I think of it). My edition of the book has a section at the end about the author’s life. It was interesting to learn that the characters are based on her family members. I didn’t know that.

My favorite characters are Jo and Laurie. Getting through this book was a struggle at times, but their shenanigans kept me reading. They made me happy.

I want to do something splendid . . . something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.Little Women

Dislikes: This novel was originally published in serial form, and it shows. It’s episodic. For most of the book, there isn’t a plot. Each chapter reads like a short story with a heavy-handed moral at the end. (The author really wants you to understand the morals.) I got bored with the lectures and the repetitive structure of the chapters. There were many times when I considered giving up on this book.

Jo and Laurie are phenomenal characters, but most of the others are dull. Beth is so dull that she eventually stops getting point-of-view chapters and just becomes part of the set. Poor Beth. She was actually one of my favorites in the very beginning, but then her life dwindles away to nothing. (On a related topic, did anyone call a doctor to figure out what was wrong with Beth? They were all like, “She’s sick again. Whatever.”)

The Bottom Line: I’m glad I finally read it, but I got bored with the episodic chapters.

The Science Of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Genre: Middlegrade contemporary
Pages: 297
Publication date: March 2018
Content warning: Depression, breaking and entering
Available at: Amazon | Book Depository

How do you grow a miracle?

For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids—flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?

Likes: This is one of those books that I struggled with in the beginning and then suddenly didn’t want to put down. I may have severely delayed my dinner to finish it. (If you know how much I love food, then you’ll know that’s a big deal.)

I adore these characters! Natalie, Twig, and Dari are three of the most engaging characters I’ve come across in a middlegrade book. Natalie has a distinctive voice. She’s mature, but she occasionally makes hilarious observations. I love Twig’s energy and lack of impulse control. Dari is the voice of reason in their friend group. He often pulls the girls back to reality when their plans get too off-the-wall. Together, they make a charming cast of characters. I think I would have related to them when I was twelve.

The characters grow a lot over the course of the novel. Natalie’s attitude toward her mother shifts as she learns more about her mother’s depression. All of Natalie’s emotions are understandable. She starts out sad and angry because her mother is “different,” but her feelings change as she gives up her preconceived ideas and figures out what’s actually been happening in her mother’s life.

This novel is structured like a science lab report. There are illustrations, instructions for experiments, materials lists, stuff like that. I didn’t find it gimmicky or heavy-handed. The science and the story flow together well and make sense thematically.

Science is asking questions. And living is not being afraid of the answer.The Science of Breakable Things

Dislikes: Like I said, I had some trouble getting invested in the story. The plot feels a bit directionless until Natalie commits to participating in the egg drop contest.

I also wondered what’s up with Natalie’s dad. He seems to have some issues with his mother and his Korean ancestry, but that isn’t explored. It’s just hinted at. I thought his issues might be explained at the end, but nope. They’re a mystery to me.

The Bottom Line: I liked it! If you enjoy science or middlegrade books with humor, honesty, and heart, I recommend it.


  1. Little Women has been one of my favourite books since I was a child - I haven't read it in quite a few years though, so I'd be interested to see what I think now that I'm older. Great post :) x

  2. I've never actually read Little Women, it's one of those books that it seems like everyone has read but me. I didn't realize it was SO LONG!

    1. I didn’t realize it was so long either! I was surprised when the book showed up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I thought it was odd that the author brought up the dad's identity issues, but I found it stranger, that he was a mental health professional, and his wife was sort of a mess. Loved Nat, loved her friends, adored all the science stuff, and thought the author did a nice job helping us understand Nat's feelings about her mother's mental health issues.

    1. All the stuff with dad was underdeveloped or not explained. I don’t know why it was included! The kids were great, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  4. Don't you love it when you find a book so good that you forget how to be human for a couple of hours? Sometimes when I find great books, all I want to do is stay in bed and read. I'll probably check out The Science of Unbreakable Things :)

    Elle @ Keep on Reading

  5. Little Women was one of my favorite tweenager books, I'm going to be reading it again for the first time since I read it several times back then and I am afraid. 😱

  6. I've been really curious about The Science of Breakable Things. I think I need to pick that one up.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  7. I read Little Women when I was much younger and I know what you mean. It's good and lovely, and such a nice story but as you said, episodic books like that tend to have it's dragging moments. I haven't heard of the Science of of Breakable things before, but it sounds really good! Maybe tricky to get into it, but after the warm up it's all smooth sailing.