Cricket Readers Recommend

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

by Marisha Pessl

My sister got me this book for Christmas, and recently I got around to reading it. I was blown away by how good it was (and I am not often blown away). 

Blue Van Meer is the daughter of a traveling professor. She averages about three schools per year, so when her dad declares that, for her senior year in highschool, they will be staying in one place, one school, she's not entirely sure what to think.

Blue falls in with a group of students- the "Bluebloods"- and their eccentric teacher, Hannah Schneider. Following which, well, life happens. Hannah dies (and I'm not giving anything away, since the story is told in flashback and we find out that Hannah died in the first few paragraphs). It's really a very difficult book to describe, but it's much better than I make it sound.

Once Hannah dies it goes from being a quite interesting, almost-but-not-quite coming-of-age story to being an impossible to put down murder mystery.

Although it does border on purple-prosey at times (though this is justifiable in that Blue, the narrator, is very bright and the daughter of a lecture-happy political science professor).

Anyone else read it? 

Average: 5 (1 vote)
submitted by TNÖ, age 16
(July 15, 2009 - 4:33 pm)

I've never read another book anything like this, I can honestly say.

On another thread I said I was disappointed with this. That was as close as I could come without really misspeaking. I wasn't disappointed with the whole book, certainly, but there were parts... I'll separate it into sections.

Beginning- The first few chapters were excellent, with the exception of the whole Andreo what's-his-name thing... that was very overdone, in my opinion.

First part of the middle- This was by far the worst. They couldn't go a paragraph without cursing, and there were some parts that I found unnecessary. I know it's YA, and I'm not saying I prefer Smeyer's rendition of highschool behaviour, but I really think that a bit of this was superfluous and Pessl put it in just because.

Second part of the middle- Things got quite interesting here, awhile after Smoke Harvey's death. Once Hannah died I really started enjoying it, and it was /really/ well-written. I was extremely impressed.

Ending- Mixed bag. Pessl left a lot to the imagination, and yet it was still very well-written. Of course, without Final Exams, or whatever the last chapter was, I might have thought differently, but the ending was still as good as it could've been, I think. Except... Zach Soderburg? (sp?) ...WHY? What was the point of sticking that in there? That was the only part of the ending that I was actually annoyed about.

She did tie everything together beautifully, but she then ruined it by putting ZS in. Again, why?

And... not to whine... but this too:

Marisha Pessl is obviously an excellent writer and very intelligent. BUT.

-She called a room claustrophobic twice.
-She called a hallway claustrophobic once.
-She called a room shizophrenic once.

Smeyer I understand, because she's Smeyer. Shane Peacock (he had a claustrophobic chimney) I understand, because he can't go a chapter without a grammar error. But Marisha Pessl was obviously a brilliant writer and should know the definition of "claustrophobic" and "shizophrenic." Really.

This post is getting too long, just one more thing. Very early on Blue notes that the reason she finds such-and-such teacher so dull is because of hs run-on sentences. For the rest of the book, Pessl proceeds to write sentences ten lines long. :-/ And yes it did border on purple prose at times.

Overall... well, see above, it was a fascinating read and I've never read anything like it.

submitted by Mary W., age 11.61, NJ
(August 6, 2009 - 1:20 pm)


submitted by Mary W.
(August 6, 2009 - 2:15 pm)

Front again...

submitted by Mary W.
(August 6, 2009 - 5:05 pm)