Cover Image: The Thirteenth Circle

The Thirteenth Circle

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Member Reviews

Cat and Dani are entered in the McMurray Youth Science Competition. Dani was sick when applications were sent in so Cat filled out the application without consulting with Dani. The project is to prove that there are aliens and they making the Weston. Farm Circles that the town is famous for. The Circles are repeated every thirteen years. Dani is not thrilled about this project as she doesn’t believe in aliens. She had a different project in mind. The two girls are to work together as that is part of the requirement to be in the McMurray Youth Science Competition. Dani decides to talk to their science teacher and try to do her own project. The teacher tells her she can’t — work as a team or don’t be in the competition. Both girls do have one thing in common. They want to win the competition. For Cat, it’s to hopefully get her NASA science father’s attention as he no longer lives at home anymore. She is sure that besides winning,her father will be back into her life. Dani wants to win as she wants her artistic parents stop trying to find what her artistic skill is. Dani is convince she doesn’t have any but she does have a latent for science which she enjoys doing. Dani thinks if she wins, her parents will finally has other talents and stop trying to find her artistic talent. During the project there are suspicious forces threatening them. Why? Will they win the competition?

The authors have the girls follow their own path despite having criticism from others. The parents relationships are key to the novel. The girls grow closer through their love of science which affects their relationships with their parents and their experiences in school. I liked the engaging science-focused mystery. I also think it was an important part of the mystery was the girls being true to themselves.

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Reading this book being described as "X-Files meets Scooby Doo", I was immediately in. I am happy to say that I think this is a great description of the book. I personally felt like it leaned more to X-Files, which I loved! Reading this book of two young girls who are obsessed with science and doing their own experiment, just made my heart so happy. I loved the friendship these two characters have and I do feel like the ending left room for more books with these characters (I hope that happens!)

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for allowing me to read this book!

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This book uses diverse elements to strong effect. It balances personal issues (primarily that of parental expectations and social challenges in middle school) with science, belief, and skepticism. Cat and Dani may be of different opinions when it comes to aliens but their approach to their experiment is always grounded in good science. Readers will recognize the elements and steps of a good study in their exploration of their topic. While the conspiracy elements go pretty far afield, the heart of the book is grounded and realistic and makes for compelling reading.

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Delightful middle grade adventure mystery filled with fun science facts, two captivating main characters, and exciting twists and turns. Perfect for fans of X-files (or future fans of X-Files)!

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This book is fun, interesting, science-y, and full of mystery. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to kids who love a fast-paced mystery.

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This inventive and engaging story follows a girl named Rory who discovers a new world filled with strange and wonderful creatures, and must use her knowledge of science to uncover the truth behind her family's legacy.
One of the strengths of this book is its ability to seamlessly blend science and magic, creating a rich and imaginative world that is both fantastical and grounded in reality. The characters are well-drawn and endearing, with motivations and desires that feel authentic and relatable.
Overall, "The Thirteenth Circle" is a must-read for middle-grade readers who enjoy fantasy, science, and a touch of mystery. Connolly's imaginative world-building and engaging writing style make this book a standout in the genre, and her skillful blending of science and magic adds depth and complexity to the story. With its captivating characters, inventive plot, and richly imagined world, "The Thirteenth Circle" is sure to be a hit with young readers.

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I really liked the overall concept of the story and that the main characters seemed so different but really had a lot in common. Cat is the free thinker of the pair while Dani is the more rational minded one - they really did make a perfect research team because Cat got Dani to think outside the box while Dani kept Cat from getting too far outside that box. I had just wished Dani had talked to Cat about the need for them to explore both sides of the situation (aliens vs other explanations) because I think Cat would have been open to it early on but since Dani kept it a secret it was easy for Cat to feel betrayed. I also think that somewhere in that betrayal was Cat feeling embarrassed because she thought Dani was in a way making fun of her. Of course, their rift wasn't helped by Ms. Blanks who needed to keep them to have a falling out in order to make her own mission a success. I felt so bad for Cat when her parents didn't believe her about her equipment being fried by an EMP - I understood why stories of MIBs in a small town trying to destroy her research would seem a little over the top, but they weren't even listening to her. I had similar feelings for Dani every time she tried to talk to her parents about not being interested in anything in the arts. I found myself really not liking them actually - it's one thing to just not understand what you kid is interested in, it's entirely different to not even try to take an interest. I wasn't a huge fan of Dani's friends either - being an adult you know that those friendships probably won't last as the girls hit high school. It was nice to see everyone finally show their support at the science fair. Even though Cat didn't end of getting to prove the existence of aliens, it was pretty cool that they did succeed in explaining out the crop circles were made. The ending suggests maybe we might get more from Science and Strange and if there are more books with these characters I will definitely be reading them.

Although I did really enjoy this book, I didn't quite buy into some of the plot points. For one, I couldn't understand why Cat not only didn't tell her mother their house had been broken into but also didn't contact the police. Secondly, the incinerator at the hotel (why would a hotel allow a way for guests to access something like that?). And third, I needed a little more explanation as to why the farmer and Ms. Blanks allowed Cat and Dani to conduct their science project on the very thing they were trying to keep quiet.

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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read this book ahead of its release date.

This was such a unique middle grade read! Endearing for science lovers, this is the first in a series with two middle school students who are paired together for a science fair, Cat and Dani. Cat believes in aliens and decides to go about proving that aliens are real, and the evidence are the crop circles that form in their town every 13 years. Dani has an opposing hypothesis - that the crop circles are a hoax and she sets on proving that they aren't real.

While the crop circles plot was informative and fun, the real heart of this story is the friendship that develops between Cat and Dani.

Recommend for ages 8+ and the whole family. I'm looking forward to what Science and Strange (the nickname that Dani and Cat earn from their classmates) are up to next time!

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I would have absolutely loved this as a kid! It's charmingly written, the characters are pretty fleshed out, the plot is plausible and well-paced. An above-average example of a middle grade mystery! The emotional stakes of the two POV characters are clear and real-feeling, and the science (and forays into pseudoscience) are fun.

I particularly enjoyed the dynamics between Cat and Dani, two kids who are really into science and who are lacking support in different ways. Cat's dad works for NASA, but it means he's not around, in the forgets-her-birthday-and-makes-it-up-with-lab-equipment way. Cat's the Mulder of this pair, doesn't really have friends at school, doesn't have anyone to share her energy for science with. Dani has friends, seems more socially adept than Cat, but her parents aren't interested in science at all and are continually trying to push her into artistic hobbies instead. The pair of them together working on a science fair project about crop circles, each for her own reasons and with her own theories, is a really fun and time-tested dynamic! They're foils for each other, and I enjoyed the progression of their friendship, the inevitable fight, and learning to work together again.

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Cute Middle Grade novel about finding your niche and alien hoaxes
Cat and Dani's teamwork is cute and watching their friendship grow is so wholesome

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Rating: 1.4/5

Review: Technically, this was good writing. What it lacked was creativeness in building a story. We have two young girls that love science that team up to uncover the secrets of crop circles. About all the author did was make one girl prim and rather myopic and the other, a goggle wearing outgoing troublemaker with frizzy hair. Oh, and she wears shirts with aliens on them. Ho-hum.

The adventure was not in evidence as they danced around the crop events with no real traction. What might have been cool to a young reader was if they deciphered the messages left in the fractals, which would eventually lead them on a real adventure. A meeting place, or designs to build something would have taken this watered down story line to new heights. As it is, they stumble their way to an ending that leaves the reader non-plussed.

Familial interactions and cute friends with some field observations is about it. Throw in an evilly teacher to spice things up and there you go.

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Science and Strange are girl-power, science-driven version of the X-files. While both main characters are are well developed all brackground characters are poorly developed and seem to exist to only add diverse characters. It's set up to develop as a series but I dont' know how interested kids will be in this series.

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Meet #ScienceandStrange. Cat is a loner science nerd who strongly believes in Aliens. Dani is a popular girl who also loves science, and she does not believe in Aliens. These two 7th graders are paired up to compete in the McMurray Youth Science Competition. Both girls have their own personal reasons that make winning this competition a priority. Dani is absent during onset of the project, so Cat takes it upon herself to not only choose the subject but also submits it to the committee before Dani is even around to have a say. Cats project is to provide true scientific evidence showing the infamous Crop Circles that have been appearing regularly over the past years at Westin Farm are in fact Aliens and proof they exist. Having no other choice other than quitting, Dani decides to disprove all of Cat's theories as her own little covert side project because she knows Aliens do not exist. Between Dani secretly working against Cat, run ins with Men in Black and an interfering teach with her own agenda, the two girls have quite the adventure. This book was so fun, and I really enjoyed it. Told in dual points of view, the authors did an excellent job highlighting each girls' strengths and weaknesses. I loved seeing Cat come out of her shell and the two girls, despite their differences and scientific outlooks, work together and become friends. While the book does not end on a cliffhanger, it does leave it open ended so I am really hoping their will be more ScienceAndStrange adventures to read. I can really see this being adapted into a movie or series.

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I loved this book! It's a 4.5/5 with the only reason of not being a 5/5 due to the details that misguide audience expectations for the book to be more sci-fi (at least to me).
Everything about this book was amazing. I think one reason this book was such a great read was the perfect way Connolly handles the dynamic of Kat and Dani as duo MCs.They're both strong leads with strong opinions which create this fun push and pull between them. The story is written with the perspective alternating between the two. Sometimes this alternating narration can feel tacky or unneeded in books but it works exceptionally well here. Both Kat and Dani are different enough that flip-flopping between perspective adds spice and flavor. It's especially great since as the blurb notes they have differing intentions with the crop circle investigation. Dani and Kat are also written well. Each sounds like a teen. I love how they face issues outside of the main story and that the book doesn't just magically solve their issues. Sometimes middle grade fiction can go for this over-the-top happy endings with happily-ever-afters. While The Thirteenth Circle does have a happy ending not everything is perfectly solved just like in real life.
Connolly should also get applauded for the massive amount of research and work she did with outside sources. This book is extremely well researched when it come to hypotheses for why crop circles are created but by supernatural and human forces. These hypotheses are made by both Dani and Kat and their continued work on their hypotheses adds great tension to the story and makes it much more complex. Dani's commitment to finding out if the crop circle is a hoax in particular was really appreciated by me as it gives neat info on crop circles, creates natural plot tension as hypotheses come and go, and aids the natural mystery as the crop circle mystery gets deeper and deeper. Its a super strong idea that aids and really pulls the story. along.
The other main mystery concerns Mrs. Blanks who is Dani and Kat's teacher. I found her mystery to still be neat but less interesting as most of her mystery can be solved easily. The only portions that aren't solved quickly are ones that are kept to the very end which are impossible to guess or figure out ahead of time imo.
As it might be clear this book is also VERY heavy on STEM and the scientific process. I love this! Not only does it add to the mystery in a good way it also helps act as catch-up points for readers who might get confused as the plot continues to tangle more and more (which considering the target demographic is especially appreciated). I also love it as a soon-to-be teacher as I feel many students are scared or fear the scientific process or struggle to find its merit. But this book does a great job at showing how the scientific process can be fascinating and is worth merit. It's a clear winner for any school's STEM week or month as a book recommendation.
This review should make it clear this is a mystery novel. Which is weird as the cover and the blurb makes it feel like this might be more of a hard sci-fi slant. But when the mystery solved in the end I was surprised. At first I was a little disappointed as the cover and blurb had sold me on this being a specific sort of book which the ending made clear was wrong. It's still a great ending and is in-line with the actual meat of the mystery-laden book than the sci-fi blurb and cover lets on. Just make sure to come in with the expectation of a mystery and not action or hard sci-fi and you'll for sure give this book 5 stars!

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I loved this! I don't read a lot of middle grade, so I was a bit hesitant to pick this one up, but I'm glad I did! Reading this as an adult, I did find this a bit obvious (predictable?) but it was such a fun time. I think our kids at the library will love this--a lot of them really love aliens and softer sci-fi so I think this will be a big hit! This was so cute and I would love more from these characters and these authors!

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The Thirteenth Circle was such a great MG read! While parts were a bit predictable, this didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story or the characters. It's perfect for kids who like science, aliens, and/or friendship stories. (The ending also hints at the possibility of there being additional books, and personally I'd love to read another Dani/Cat adventure!)

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4.5/5 stars

"Dani entered Cat's attic lair. That was really the only way to describe it: Her bedroom was like a mad scientist, a conspiracy theorist, and a detective had opened an interior decorating company."

Meet #ScienceAndStrange, aka Dani and Cat. Two aspiring seventh-graders entering as partners to win the famed McMurray Youth Science Competition. Their project is a little out there - studying the town's legendary crop circles at Weston Farms to demonstrate signs of extraterrestrial life. One small issue is that where Cat strongly believes in UFOs and all things alien, Dani believes it's all a hoax. With opposing goals and meddling from the "Men in Black," they'll have to learn to work together to uncover the mystery of the Weston Farms Circles.

Where was this book when I was growing up? Honestly, I would have loved to read a mystery novel with actual science in it. Even though I'm definitely not in the age range for this book, which sits around middle-school level, I still found it quite enjoyable. Both Dani and Cat felt like real 12 year-olds with their own distinct personalities, issues, language, and actions. I appreciate that Cat is confident in what she believes no matter what and that Dani complimented Cat's personality as the voice of reason. I will say it was pretty obvious who the "bad guy" was but understanding the why, what, and how of the mystery was the real reward.

Thank you NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for sending this eBook in exchange for an honest review! Any quotes are from a pre-publication version and subject to change.

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MarcyKate Connolly and Kathryn Holmes write a unique children’s novel, I loved that it was “X-Files meets Scooby-Doo” I could see that in the story. I loved Cat and Dani’s bond and wanted to go on more adventures with them. I hope this world continues as I enjoyed this a lot.

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What worked:
What a curious conflict between characters. Cat is the biggest weirdo in the seventh grade and she’s determined to prove aliens are creating crop circles at a local farm every thirteen years. Dani wants to get a scholarship to a science camp but her only chance to win one is by pairing up with Cat in a science competition. The idea of aliens is stupid to her so her goal is to disprove her partner’s hypothesis. She doesn’t share this secret with her partner although her comments should give away her plan. Cat knows a lot more about crop circles and space than Dani so Dani’s going to need to come up with her own hypothesis soon. The chapters alternate between the two characters’ viewpoints so readers will experience the excitement and inner turmoil developing within their minds.
Science and math are key elements in the story as both characters love the subjects and respect the process. They quickly figure out the appearance of the crop circles is related to prime numbers. The circles arise every thirteen years and there are always a prime number of them. The girls research news reports about past crop circles around the world although Cat and Dani have different perspectives on what actually happened. They carefully follow the scientific method as they collect evidence from the farm and save control samples for comparison. Strangely, researchers should be unbiased but Cat twists their observations to fit aliens as the cause while Dani does the exact same thing to explain natural causes. They don’t realize their opposing views are actually challenging each other to be better scientists.
Both girls soon recognize something strange is going on, stranger than UFOs and aliens, but they don’t know what. Cat is present when a circle forms right in front of her although she’s not actually able to see it. Men in dark suits show up, ala Men in Black, who take control of the scene, confiscate all of the girls’ evidence and kick them off the property. The owner of the farm is interviewed on the news and the girls know he’s lying about what’s happening. A crop-dusting pilot shares some information with them that gets Dani wondering about her own hypothesis. The author saves some surprises until later in the plot although experienced readers should have a pretty good idea of where the plot’s headed.
What didn’t work as well:
Clues start falling into place enough that the outcome is fairly predictable halfway into the book. The details still need to be refined but readers will get the gist of the resolution.
The Final Verdict:
This book should really appeal to lovers of space research and the scientific method. The back-and-forth of perspectives between Dani and Cat will keep readers wondering about the truth although alien believers will be rooting for Cat. The book’s ending seems to leave the door open for a sequel. Overall, I recommend you give this book a shot.

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Over the last few years, I've become quite the fan of the Feiwel and Friends Imprint, a label under MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. I first became familiar with them when one of my author friends, Sarah Cannon, signed with them and it made me anxiously await other releases as I knew they would combine excellent writing and terrific storytelling.

Authors MarcyKate Connolly and Kathryn Holmes are here with "The Thirteenth Circle," a middle-grade sci-fi/fantasy title that does everything I've come to expect from Feiwel and Friends titles by telling an engaging and entertaining story that kept me involved from beginning to end.

With "The Thirteenth Circle," The X-Files meets a bit of Scooby-Doo and more than a little Men in Black to tell the story about two unexpected friends, crop circles, science fairs, and the maybe or maybe not of aliens.

Cat knows aliens are real. She aims to prove it and wants to enter the McMurray Youth Science Competition to give credibility to her work. She plans to study her town's legendary Weston Farm Circles, a study she just knows will win the competition and impress her distant but supportive NASA scientist father.

Dani most certainly does not believe in aliens and is more than a little upset when her partner, Cat, submits the subject matter as "their" competition entry. However, with no other potential partners within their school she opts for a different approach for working with her partner. Dani wants to win McMurray, but mostly because it will allow her to avoid another Summer spent at her parents' artistic kids summer camp.

Dani is not artistic.

Things go wrong. Things go wright. Our mismatched girls bond over science and start to realize there really is something strange about the Weston Farm Circles. When their project is repeatedly threatened by mysterious forces, they realize they're going to have to work together to expose the truth.

Cat and Dani are delightfully realized seventh-grade girls. The book's front cover is almost exactly how I pictured them, Cat being a more frazzled outsider with an inherent likability and Dani being the more popular of the two with a core squad of friends and a slightly more structured existence.

Every little detail makes sense here - from Cat's affinity for Mountain Dew to repeated references to MIB that initially threw me off yet then made me realize that's almost exactly how a seventh-grade lens of sci-fi/fantasy and aliens would be.

Yes, it's true I figured out "The Thirteenth Circle" fairly early on. And yes, I was right. However, I'm also a 50-year-old writer/reviewer reading a middle-grade novel. The truth is that "The Thirteenth Circle" won my heart, won my mind, and entertained me. I enjoyed these characters immensely and enjoyed the storytelling.

Another winner from Feiwel and Friends, "The Thirteenth Circle" is the kind of book that leaves you appreciating the world it creates and is an ideal ready for entry-level sci-fi/fantasy readers with the ability to embrace modestly complex concepts and who will identify with the family and friendship dynamics that feel honesty and richly developed here.

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