Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
What is that intangible thing an author provides that makes you start a book you don’t expect to like, and then you come up for air and you realize that it’s way past your bedtime? I bought this book because it was the literary gem of the season by precocious wunderkind Pessl, recently graduated from college. I rolled my eyes when I found our protagonist had the pretentious name of Blue van Meer. She has lived and been schooled in dozens of cities by her restless father, and now in her senior year, she’s dumped in a high-end prep school and seduced into a snotty clique. Could I really like this? When I looked up, I’d read without moving for nearly 3 hours.
As others have said before me, this book fits into no neat genre: part coming-of-age; part mystery, but with details that feel more like an espionage tale; erudite and written with the flare of an old master of the written page, but never for the sake of showing off—only ever to entreat you deeper into this amazing story. It doesn’t keep to its traces but breaks out all over the place. Like an origami flower, it folds out wider and wider, and we are no longer in high-school prep/clique land but in a much vaster field. Also there is real beauty, wonder, pain, heartbreak—and suspense! Seriously, this book has it all.
Pessel is one of the best writers of her generation. STinCP came out in 2007 and she has just released her second novel Night Film in 2013. From the reviews, it seems she has done it again (currently on my short ‘to read’ list).
Grade: 5+ stars