The main character of the book The Absolute Value of Mike, by Kathryn Erskine, is the son of a brilliant but absent-minded mathematician. Mike takes care of everything around the house. He pays the bills and handles all the day-to-day activities of the household. Although Mike's father is a mathematician, Mike suffers from a condition called dyscalculia, meaning that he has an inablity to process math problems. Mike's father wants him to become an engineer, a career which requires a lot of math. Mike does not want to disappoint his father, but he struggles with math because of his dyscalculia. He doesn't know how to tell his father that he does not want to be an engineer.
Mike learns that his father is going to Romania for work, and that he will not be going with him. The plan is to send Mike to live with his Great Aunt Moo and Great Uncle Poppy in Pennsylvania. Mike has never met them, and he is not happy about this arrangement. Upon his arrival Mike soon realizes that Poppy and Moo need his help more than he needs theirs. Poppy and Moo are living from Social Security check to Social Security check. Their home is in disrepair, and they are terrible at managing their finances.
His father has sent him to live with his relatives because Poppy is working on a project called an "artesian screw," and he wants Mike to gain some engineering experience by helping. But this project is not at all what Mike's father had envisioned. Mike meets and befriends some interesting characters--a homeless man named Past and a punker girl with a job at the bank. Working with his new friends on "the project," Mike learns a lot about the value of individuals and the importance of not judging a book by its cover. He also learns a lot about himself and the importance of being true to himself and accepting himself for who he is.
This book is funny, sad, compelling, and there is a little mystery thrown in. It speaks to the fact that one person can make a difference and that everyone is unique and has value.