Summary: The Probability of Everything
Kemi Carter is a scientific facts aficionado who lives with her parents and her little sister, Lola. They’ve recently moved to a better neighborhood but don’t feel particularly welcome. The story opens with readers learning that an asteroid is predicted to hit Earth in four days. To prepare for the end of the world as she knows it, Kemi prepares a time capsule to preserve her most important memories and mementos about her family — including her dad who is the center of her world.
I’m a huge fan of Sarah Everett‘s young adult novels (I reviewed one here) and I know how much of a gut punch they can be, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Kemi is an unreliable narrator. This is one of those books that’s best to go into as blindly as possible, so if you don’t want even the most vague of spoilers, I recommend clicking out of this review now. (Just know the book is good and it is definitely not sci-fi about the end of the world.)
Now to the review! This book was a disorienting reading experience because the author tries hard to keep readers wondering what exactly has happened with Kemi. I think many readers will figure out soon that there’s no asteroid coming because no one else is talking or worrying about it. Kemi’s friends go to school as normal and her cousins laugh and play like usual — which I think is a fantastic metaphor for the way it feels when we are grieving a personal loss and the world keeps spinning.
A major theme in this story is racism and how it affects even well-to-do Black families looking for better living conditions for their families. Kemi’s family is never welcome in their new neighborhood which has more whites than POC. Even her mom’s family feels they should have stayed in a more Black neighborhood. Slowly, readers will find out the tragedy of what’s really happening to end Kemi’s world and it is heartbreaking.
I liked that Kemi and her family had a support system throughout the story. She has good friends and cousins who hang out with her even when she’s understandably not fun to be around. We also get a glimpse into Nigerian culture as Kemi’s mother is Nigerian.
While I think this book’s theme is powerful (especially regarding the cause of the tragedy) and it will be a very buzzy title, I wish Kemi had more personality. We do see a little bit of their life in the before, but so much of it is shrouded in grief that all I remember about her is that she was sad and she loved science, which I think is a bit of disservice to a main character. I’ve also read at least three books with this kind of plot twist, so I knew from like page three — which made it less impactful for me.
Overall: The Probability of Everything
The Probability of Everything is a deeply poignant middle grade book about grief, racism, and finding the way forward after tragedy. Featuring a science-loving protagonist, this book features lots of math (probability) and asteroid fun facts. Especially with recent news reports, it’s important that a book like this exists and one written in a way that lures in unsuspecting readers.
“This story was sad, but I liked the ideas about how to help people feel better during a hard time. I also liked how Kemi shared how much she likes probability.”— Lyra S., age 8
Here are some specifics to know about the content.
- Death: Features the death of a parent
- Racism: Includes the depiction of a racist crime
- Ethnic: Most characters are Black, part of Kemi’s family is of Nigerian descent, Kemi’s friend Dia is Chinese-American
- Sexual orientation: Kemi’s friend Dia has two moms
Recommended for ages: 10+
Good for kids who like:
- When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn
- Clues to the Universe by Christina Li
- Middle grade books about space
- Middle grade books about death and grief
- Sad middle grade books
- Books about father-child relationships