Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl: Blue van Meer and her somewhat eccentric dad live a nomadic life as he jumps between visiting professorships all over the country. Our story takes place during Blue’s senior year of high school in North Carolina, when the two actually stay in one place for an entire year. She meets a collection of unusual characters, most notably Hannah Schneider, a film studies teacher at the high school with a somewhat mysterious past. The most memorable and enchanting part of this book is the writing style. Blue’s lively narration is rife with intellectual asides, all backed up with MLA-style citations. I kept wondering how many of the references were real. So convinced was I of the legitimacy of the sources that I was rather surprised to discover that the Night Watchmen don’t actually exist. I found the plot and the unique storytelling methods delightful. And for the record, I think Blue is 100% correct. (Those who have read the book will know what I mean.)

I listened to this on audiobook. Though the reader (Emily Janice Card) was fantastic, the “visual aids” (illustrations) and other textual ornamentation would have been a nice addition. I picked up a hardcover copy at the library, so I was able to see what I was missing. Card was one of the best female readers I’ve ever heard; the story would have simply been better to experience as intended.

  1. I hope to read this one soon. Another one that is in my TBR stack. Thanks for the warning about reading rather than listening.

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