Saturday, July 19, 2008

Special Topics In Calamity Physics

Wow. I don't even know where to start. This book was unlike anything else I've read in a long time. It was sort of Cruel Intentions meets The Gilmore Girls, meets Heathers, with a pinch or two of conspiracy theory thrown in at the end. Doesn't sound like a stew you'd like to read? That's what I would have said too, but this book is GOOD.

I actually finished it on Friday night and had planned to write about it yesterday, but some bozo at a construction site a few miles from our house downed a power line that left the entire neighborhood without power until around 2am last night. Genius. FYI - Being without power seems kind of fun and romantic at first, but not when your plans were to blog, mow the lawn with your electric lawn mower, do the dishes, start a load of laundry and paint your bedroom in the evening. Instead, plans were revised. I loaded the dishwasher, worried about our food going bad, fretted that our neighbor's Koi were going to die without the pond pumps working (we're Koi-sitting while they're on vacay), and spent the evening painting in the dark with a flashlight (calm down, it was just primer).

ANYWAYS. This book by Marisha Pessl is about a girl named Blue vanMeer and her Dad. They move all over the country every 3 months or so (he's a genius professor that hops Universities) until her senior year in high school, when they stay put for the entire year. Blue attends a prestigious school and starts running with a very Heathers meets Cruel Intentions like crowd. They have Sunday supper gatherings where they talk about intellectual things while their teacher slash friend, Hannah Schneider cooks gourmet meals for them. Things get a little creepy and weird and eventually the story turns into a mystery with conspiracy theory solutions. There, I don't think that gave too much away.

When I started this book, I spent the first 25 pages or so distracted by the overly sharp, witty banter between Blue and her father. I've never actually followed The Gilmore Girls, but it's hard to flip channels without catching some of it every once in a while. I'm sure it's a good show, but every time I watch it, I find myself shouting at the TV, "People don't talk like that in real life!". It's so ridiculously smart and snappy that I always assumed it took a whole bevy of writers to script it. But Pessl does it all by herself. The writing is in such a different style from just about anything I've read, it's hard not to be blown away every once in a while. So after fighting the style for about 25 pages, I finally just fell into step with it and stopped noticing it. Then I started loving it.

The story is SO captivating and the characters are fantastic. Every once in a while the whole Dad-worship thing got on my nerves. I'm sure it was intentional, but the plot would detour back to her Dad for pages at a time, when all I wanted to know was what happened next. The daddy-detours were sometimes relevant, but many times just felt like overkill and I skipped more than a few to just "get on with it". Aside from this, I really loved this book. I tore through the last 100 pages and was then really disappointed that it was over. It's the kind of novel where you want to immediately talk to someone else who's read the book and see what they thought about various parts of the story. Has anyone out there actually read it?

Well, I'm off to see if the Koi made it through the night or not. Wish me luck. The directions our neighbors gave us include a bullet point that says, "Dead Fish - these guys are heavy and you will need a garden rake or shovel to pull it out of the pond." Gross.


Maree said...

Sounds like an interesting read. Good luck with the fish!

Kristin said...

If a Koi dies, you should freeze it in the freezer until its owners come home in case they want to bury it themselves. That's what my dad did with my guinea pig!

Jill said...

Gross Kristin! Luckily the fish did NOT die, so I won't be worrying about that.