The Friendship Experiment

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Friendship Experiment Book Poster Image
Smart, heartfelt portrayal of lonely, science-loving tween.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Full of great information on Von Willebrand disease, a common but often unfamiliar bleeding disorder, and lab procedures and safety, including how to prepare and safely handle petri dishes. Encourages curiosity, scientific inquiry, and practical thinking.

Positive Messages

Always be kind. When you've done something wrong, make it right. Everyone's a little weird in their own way. Friendship is not a science. Jealousy is not a helpful emotion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maddie is prickly toward her best friend and her classmates, but it's a defensive posture: She's deeply wounded by the double-whammy of losing her grandfather and the possibility of losing her best friend. She recognizes when she's being mean and feels remorseful. When it's clear she's hurt the feelings of people who tried to treat her kindly, she owns up to her actions and takes steps to try to repair the damage. Maddie and her older sister, Brooke, bicker and fight, but Brooke patiently helps Maddie when she suffers a nosebleed. A classmate goes out of his way to show consideration and kindness, recruiting peers to help. Maddie's parents and grandmother are deeply involved parents, but not above feeling frustrated with Maddie's behavior. There's a strong sense of family connection, and an affectionate relationship with a neighbor.

Violence
Sex

Mild tween romantic interest.

Language

Coach calls kids "pansies" and is annoyed by an injured girl crying.

Consumerism

Brief mention of Jell-O.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Friendship Experiment follows an 11-year-old aspiring scientist whose family is grieving the loss of her grandfather, worried about financial security, and coping with an inherited bleeding disorder that causes the children in the family to suffer frequent and serious nosebleeds. The subject matter is serious, but Erin Teagan's debut novel is full of heart and winning humor. Teagan, who has a background as a research scientist, creates a realistic and empathetic portrayal of a girl with passion and an aptitude for scientific investigation.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old April 30, 2017

Scientifically Funny! It's a Great Read for Tweens!

I really liked this book because I can relate to the main character, Madeline. I can relate to her because she is a science nut, and she has random nose bleeds.... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT is Maddie's attempt to cope with her grief for her grandfather, her anxiety over starting school without her best friend, who's going to private school, and her testy relationship with her older sister, who shares the same rare blood disorder Maddie has. An aspiring microbiologist, Maddie has no patience for peers who don't appreciate real science. Inspired by her grandfather, she starts to write secret standard operating procedures -- SOPs -- for managing situations she finds bothersome, like the weirdos she's stuck with at lunch. Her sarcastic SOPs, however, ignore her grandfather's instruction: Always be kind. The consequences of ignoring that advice, she learns, can be disastrous.

Is it any good?

Erin Teagan's strong, well-written debut combines a science-loving heroine with tween jealousy, nastiness, and rivalry -- but this isn't your typical mean-girls middle school dramedy. One of the meanest girls in The Friendship Experiment is Maddie herself, who's really nursing a tender, bruised heart. Her impatience with people who don't match her passion and knowledge leaves her isolated. She surprises herself by just how mean she can be, which helps make her such an authentic, relatable character.

Maddie's science notebook is just like a diary, helping her process relationships and recognize her own strengths and flaws. Her experience is a good reminder that both scientific inquiry and relationships require risk-taking and an open mind. Teagan's lab experience helps give her novel an excellent STEM grounding.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Maddie's science notebook in The Friendship Experiment and keeping journals. Do you find it helpful to vent ugly feelings in a journal? When does it cross the line from emotional release to just being mean?

  • Why do you think there are so many books about the transition to middle school? Have you found any that relate to your own experience?

  • How have new friends come into your life? How have you helped build new friendships?

Book details

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