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‘Life After Genius’ by M. Ann Jacoby

  Theodore “Mead” Fegley is a mathematical genius. He has skipped grades, graduated high school early and, by 15, begins attending college.
  But for all his smarts, Mead is unhappy, always wanting the social acceptance others seem to come by so easily.
  “Life After Genius” by M. Ann Jacoby shares Mead’s brilliance, sensitivity, awkwardness and self-centeredness in a sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating tale full of colorful characters.
  Mead’s father is a kindly, understanding undertaker and his mother is an overbearing nag, who Mead calls the “six-legged creature,” referring to her sitting in a chair ready to lecture him.
  High school is torture for Mead, with constant teasing and bullying, and he can’t wait to get to college, where he is certain things will be different.
  Unfortunately for Mead, his age keeps him separated from his classmates.
  “Mead feels dizzy. He thinks maybe he has heard wrong and yet he knows he has heard right. That he is being rejected. Again. Because of his age. Because he does not fit in. Does not conform to some preordained mold. Only this is worse. Worse than spitballs, worse than name-calling, worse than having his head flushed down the toilet.”
  The story fluctuates between past and present and actually begins with Mead returning home just days before college graduation, which sends his mother over the edge.
  "He pulls free of her grip. ‘I don’t want to be me anymore. I’m tired of being a genius. I quit.’
  " ‘You can’t quit, Teddy, that’s who you are.’
  " ‘No, it isn’t. It’s what you turned me into. I just want to be normal, another overlooked face in the crowd.’ "
  Jacoby explores Mead’s life and relationships through flashbacks. Throughout his childhood the boy longs to be normal, taking for granted his exceptional intelligence. He’s jealous of his cousin, Percy. Though Percy protects Mead in school and admires the boy’s academic achievements, Mead wishes for his popular cousin to fail. It never dawns on him that other people have their own problems. He learns that lesson soon enough.
  Mead’s selfishness and naivete got on my nerves at times, but I suppose for his age it’s appropriate, especially since this is a coming-of-age story, though one that has a thread of mystery as the reason behind Mead’s fleeing college slowly is revealed.
  With all his faults, I liked Mead. And while I was curious about why Mead would run away from school, it was the characters that kept me turning the pages of “Life After Genius.”

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