Emma-Jean Lazarus is a lovable oddball who thinks she can use logic to solve the "messy" everyday problems of her seventh-grade peers. It's easy - she just follows the example of her late father, a brilliant mathematician. Of course, the more Emma-Jean gets involved, the messier her own life gets. Suddenly, she's no longer the person standing on the outside of all social interactions. But perhaps that's a good thing?
At the center of Francine Prose's profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, 13-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's enigmatic boyfriend.
Emma-Jean is experiencing something new and unsettling, but not entirely unpleasant. It's a fluttering in her heart when she imagines herself asking Will to the seventh-grade dance. Her best friend Colleen is worried that Will might laugh if Emma-Jean invites him. After all, Emma-Jean is a different kind of girl - certainly different from queen-bee Laura, who has always made it clear that Will is hers. Maybe Colleen can distract Emma- Jean from this risky plan by recruiting her for a top-secret investigation.