A Mathematical State of Grace, a young adult dystopian novel by Cathy McGough, has a bit of everything going on in the story to keep the reader entertained.
Grace Greenway is a sixteen-year-old math whiz. Vincente Marino is a star high school athlete and the only time he gives Grace attention is when he needs to copy her math homework. Grace, on the other hand, hardly ever stops thinking about Vincente. Then a fateful moment brings the two of them together and they have to depend on each other to survive in a new world.
Grace is the perfect kind of character for this story. She’s sweet, intelligent, nerdy, and completely lovable. Vincente isn’t the typical jock. He uses Grace for her math homework, but he doesn’t come across as a one-dimensional jerk. And when Grace needs him, he’s there for her.
Writing a novel about a catastrophic world event that wipes out most of the human population is a challenge for an author. When Grace and Vincente realize that they might be the only survivors the reader also has to deal with the fact that there are only two characters to keep them engaged in the story. This could have been off-putting. However, McGough is able to move the plot along in such a way, shifting the focus from the loss of all the other characters and making the reader wonder about what happened, what might still happen, and how can two teenagers cope in such a world.
The big question on the reader’s mind is what happened? McGough doesn’t answer this completely, but drops clues. It’s important to remember, that Grace and Vincente are just teenagers who wake up to a new world. They don’t have the answers, ergo the reader doesn’t either. There is a sense that the author is dropping hints and that the following books in the series may answer the question more sufficiently.
One disappointment about this story is the pacing. In the beginning, the focus is on Grace, who is in the hospital with a serious medical condition. About a third of the way through the book, the two realize what’s happened to the world. The action starts to rev up, keeping the reader on the edge of her seat. And then the author steps back from the action and focuses on the relationship developing between the two characters. It would have been more effective if the three sections blended together more. At times if felt like there were three parts to the first book in the series. It’s entirely possible that was the author’s intention and as the series progresses it will become clear why.
While the ending doesn’t tie up many loose ends, it’s not a major cliffhanger, either. The sample of the next book hints to some major action starting right off the bat and it seems like things are about to get much more difficult for Grace and Vincente. The first book is intriguing enough to make readers want to find out what happens next and hopefully the author rounds out the new world more so the reader can start to comprehend what’s happening and why.