Tae Keller is a new author whose novel, The Science of Breakable Things, was released to the public this past spring! Writing this novel helped Tae with her own feelings. She was able to create while dealing with something else, something big, going on in her life. And because of that, so many young readers (and any adults interested as well) are able to gain so much from her novel.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of this book! Check out our thoughts on Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things below:
Review of The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Parental depression isn’t an easy topic to write about. However, the subject is beautifully covered in Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things. It’s a novel that shows that kids are observant and that they care. It’s shows that kids want to understand and help those they love just as much as any adult would. It shows that sometimes parents simply just aren’t perfect.
This novel, focused around an egg dropping contest and a pretty blue orchid, has so much more to do about the complexities of life and feelings than one might originally realize just from reading the back cover. It’s complex, sad, enlightening, intriguing, and incredibly emotional. However, it’s also extremely entertaining. Consider it a novel that you won’t want to put down.
The main character, Natalie, is self-aware and full of hope. She believes that she can find the answer to her mother’s problems with a little help from some potential egg-dropping contest prize money. Beyond that, Natalie gives a voice to biracial girls everywhere. With Natalie being half Asian, readers know exactly who she is. There’s no hiding it, just like there’s no hiding the impact that depression can have on a family. Tae Keller’s honesty is the shining light in the middle-grade world, a theme that is sewn together throughout her entire novel.
Even though depression is sad and dark sometimes, this novel shows that there’s actually more to it than that. Someone can be sad and still have a family, still around to make pie on turkey day. But then there are also the bad days. And hard moments. And unexpected turns in life.
And then there’s the girl who can compare science to emotion. The girl who loves her kid life, but can’t let go of the desire to help her mom. The girl who can give so many kids insight on something that too many of us deal with, yet we choose not to discuss. And that’s honestly all any of us ever want in a novel, isn’t it? Someone like Natalie in The Science of Breakable Things.
Q&A with Tae Keller
After reading The Science of Breakable Things, we were able to talk to author Tae Keller herself! We learned about her background in publishing, her fear of pigeons, and why she writes about biracial girls. Check it out here:
Just to start, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi! I write middle grade stories about biracial girls trying to find their voices. I also spend most of my time reading, fangirling over dogs, and drinking all the tea.
What were you up to before you became an author?
I worked in publishing before I sold The Science of Breakable Things and I loved being part of the team that made books happen. I’ve always loved books and stories, and knew I wanted to work on them in some way.
What originally inspired you to be a writer?
I’m very lucky because my mom is an author as well. I grew up watching her write novels and I’d write my own in little crayon books by her side.
Your book, The Science of Breakable Things, was released this past March. Can you tell us a bit about it and why you were inspired to write it?
When I started writing the story, I had just found out that someone very close to me was suffering from depression. It was such a scary time; I didn’t know how to help or what to do and I wrote the story as a way to process my own fear. Natalie’s situation with her mom was different enough from my own that I could still keep some distance, but close enough that I could work through what I was feeling at the time. I actually wrote more about that process here.
Do you have any plans to write another novel. If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
I can’t say too much about it, but it’s another middle grade story, one that centers the Korean fairy tales I heard as a kid. It’s been such a joy to revisit those stories as an adult.
You are originally from Hawaii! How did you transition from your life there to a life in New York City?
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve fully transitioned yet! The winters are rough, and sometimes I’m still struck by the pace of the city, but I love the energy, the opportunities, and the food. Oh man, the food is so good here.
You focus on writing about biracial characters. Why do you believe it’s important to write about biracial girls?
I was lucky growing up because being biracial—especially part Asian—is very common in Hawaii, so nobody ever questioned my identity. But when I came to the mainland, I realized how rare it is, and how uncomfortable it made a lot of people. I think many people want to put identity in a box, and biracial identity doesn’t always fit neatly. I want to say I’m Asian, I’m white, I’m both partly, I’m neither fully, I’m something else entirely. I want to say that being biracial is a valid identity, and I want to make kids feel seen.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you like to create?
My writing process is kinetic. I like to touch stories, to feel what I’m working on, to bring them out of my computer screen. I’m happiest when I’m writing scenes on post-its and rearranging them, spreading pages across my kitchen floor, and drawing mindmaps on my giant whiteboard.
What has been your biggest struggle as a writer?
I think most writers struggle with impostor syndrome, and I’m no stranger to that. I’m always worrying that my writing isn’t good enough, and now that I have readers, I’m worried about disappointing them.
Is there a fun fact about yourself that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?
I’m terrified of pigeons. It’s the fluttery-wing sound, I think. And I lowkey think they’re conspiring to take over the world. Seriously, beware.
What do you want kids to gain the most from your novel?
I want them to know they’re not alone. Everybody feels afraid, sometimes, like the world is far too big. It’s normal, and they’ll be okay.
What advice would you give to struggling writers out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It’s the same advice I’d give to an aspiring author, and the same advice I remind myself of now. When I realized I wanted to be published, I researched the publishing world and other author’s processes obsessively. I thought there was a “right way” to do this author thing. But everybody’s path and process is different and I’m always happiest when I let go of this mythical “right way” and just do what works for me.
Your career seems boundless. Where do you see yourself going from here?
That’s kind of you—thank you! Right now, I’m excited about middle grade, and I have a few more novels in my heart!