Books Read: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

For my “TBR Pile Challenge,” I’ve read one book so far. I know, only one — sad. However, in my defense, it was 528 pages. And I’m also 72% of the way through “The Brothers Karamazov”! So I feel ok about that.

Title & Author: Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl (2006)

Summary and Thoughts: Blue van Meer, a teenager, is the daughter of an itinerant professor.

She opens by telling the reader that she’s going to talk about the death of Hannah Schneider, and then goes back in time to talk about growing up, moving to a small town, settling into a new school, and the events leading up to and following Hannah’s mysterious and unexpected death.

This book is sort of a mystery-memoir style, while also being incredibly literary. It was given to me by a friend who thought I would appreciate all the references, and I did. Pessl also uses unexpected similes and metaphors, and while they don’t work all the time, and some of the references go over my head, enough of it is accessible to still get the point and move on.

The point isn’t to look up all the references — you can still understand the story without them — but the references to add to the story. Each chapter title, for example, is the title of a book (usually classic literature). If you know the book’s general theme, you will have a clue to what’s going on in the chapter. If you don’t, you’ll find out what happens in the chapter anyway, so don’t let the over-literary-ness deter you.

While the book and narrator may be too literary and clever for its/her own good, it was still a fun read. The narrative threads become more complicated as you get near the end, but that’s all part of the fun.

Also, even though I don’t think I know any teenagers as crazy-smart as Blue, it still made me glad to be an adult and not a teenager. I’m so glad to be finished with that part of my life — being an adult is, in many ways, preferable to being a teenager.

Rating: ★ ★ ★