Thursday, February 5, 2009
Marisha Pessl/SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS
Blue van Meer, an oppressively well-read high school senior, has spent her life in the passenger seat of her widower father's car as they drive from university town to university town, averaging three moves a year. As a result, Blue has an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare, resistance movements, and deceased film stars, but not a single friend. For her senior year, however, Professor van Meer decides they will settle in a town with a very good private school so Blue will be sure to get into Harvard. The unsocialized Blue finds herself sucked into a clique of charismatic seniors, the "bluebloods," who gather together under the wing of their film teacher, Hannah Schneider, the most charismatic of them all. It isn't many weeks into Blue's settled life and tenuous new friendships that things become strange and begin to go wrong--and Blue, in her innocence of people, has an awful lot to untangle.
Although this book is more than 500 pages, I found it going very quickly. Pessl's style is compulsively readable and compelling--this despite the fact that there are (often humorous or imaginary) bibliographic citations worked into almost every paragraph. The whole book is nerdishly delectable like that--in that you'll find it delectable if you are *that* sort of nerd. I have met people who loved it as well as people who couldn't stand the style and didn't make it past 20 pages. For the latter group, I feel a little sorry, since they never made it to what turns out to be a multifaceted and mind-tripping little plot.
I, personally, liked it a lot, although I think it's a risky recommendation for people who don't tend to like the kinds of things I read.
I won't say more here, because I don't want to put spoilers directly into the review, but if other people have read it, please let me know! I'd love to talk about the end (so those who haven't read, perhaps shy away from the comments).