Thursday, July 25, 2013
Marisha Pessl, SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS
Thanks to my cousin Kate for this one--probably one of the cleverest, most heartbreaking books I've read all year. It's a YA heroine in an adult tale, about Blue, a precocious seventeen-year-old, who explains in the introduction that she will "write about my childhood--most critically, the year it unstitched like a snagged sweater." This unstitching is largely due to her father, the narcissistic and charming Dr. Van Meer, who drags her from second-rate university to second-rate university as he writes his Grand Manuscript. Throw in an eccentric and charismatic high-school teacher named Hannah who teaches film and collects unusual students. Add in about a thousand references to books, films, music, TV (I had the feeling I was working a crossword puzzle the whole time, but it's done so that I felt very clever for solving the clues!) and some lovely, imaginative prose (I have underlines everywhere, sentences I wish I'd written myself). But the cleverness is the lesser part of the book; Blue has heart, and she lays bare the most painful moments of adolescence--how it feels to find out that boy you love thinks you kiss horribly and is telling everyone, to find out that all the people you thought were your friends aren't, to find out your parents are capable of anything, and that to survive it's good to be somewhat like a goldfish. Five stars for this one.