Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Pessl, Marisha

Book - 2007
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
In a plot modeled after the syllabus of a college literature course, teen narrator Blue Van Meer and her father Gareth end ten years of wandering by settling in Stockton, N.C. There, Blue befriends, sort of, a group of eccentric geniuses (referred to by their classmates as the Bluebloods) and their ringleader, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. As Blue becomes enmeshed with Hannah and the Bluebloods, the novel becomes a murder mystery when a friend of Hannah's dies at a party the kids have crashed.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Penguin, 2007
ISBN: 9780143112129
Branch Call Number: FIC P
Characteristics: 514 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Jan 22, 2015
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

If you enjoyed The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, you'll love Pessl's novel. When Blue van Meer and her curious group of friends become very entangled with one of their teachers, their lives are never the same.

Jan 11, 2015
  • gendeg rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Sorry, I couldn't take it anymore, the narrator droning on and on in that preternaturally precocious tone of hers. Over-wrought writing. Pessl's narrator makes constant writing-clogging literary and cultural references. It's just the epitome of literary writing gone bad. It strains, it over-preens.

I agree with one reviewer who said: "The laborious process of reading this book felt like 514 pages of a precocious child shrieking, 'Aren't I clever?' into my face, only they were pronouncing clever incorrectly because they were not, in fact, very bright, and also projecting spittle into my face every single time." Except, kudos to that reviewer for finishing. I made it only half way. There are some riveting sections here and there, and the premise is great. So many other readers found this novel brilliant and were enamored with the writing style. BUT...I just couldn't move past the main character without entertaining homicidal thoughts. Yeah, it was that bad for me.

For a good, brainy mystery steeped in academia and the antics of blue bloods-behaving-badly, stick with Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

Jan 09, 2015
  • Chapel_Hill_MollyL rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Maria Pessl is a wonder at what she does--this book is very funny and very smart. I will admit that there were times I was not sure I could go on reading--Special Topics in Calamity Physics is long, discursive, exploding with outside references, and in a style that can be, at times, off-putting. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the romping and ridiculous plot. In fact the ending is such an intriguing twist that I might just read the whole thing again to find all of the little Easter eggs hidden along the way.

Nov 19, 2014
  • Persnickety77 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I found this book to be too 'precious'. Sometimes it made me laugh out loud, which I don't do often with books. Pessl also has some great metaphors, and it's obvious the woman is very, very smart. But the plot is, in a word, ludicrous. It's supposed to be sort of suspenseful but I found myself not caring about any of it.

Mar 30, 2014
  • rlinda rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I have read this book twice and plan to read it again and again. The metaphors, references to other texts, images are so beautiful and meaningful and surprising. The story is strange, with unexpected turns, but so fun.

Jun 09, 2013

heard about author in EX - other book Night Film

Jul 19, 2012
  • cheriemoses rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

This author has the potential to write a really funny and compelling story. However, the style she adopted, with constant annotations, reads like a stutter. It is rare to read a passage without a reference to another text and while this may work well for an English essay, it is tedious and disruptive in the novel. I am hoping her writing becomes more trim and that her wit can come through rather than her obvious compulsion to appear clever.

Jul 09, 2012
  • atsfromcleve rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Great fun! The kind of book you want to start over after you finish it so you can pick up all the nuance you missed. I recommend reading it. Twice.

Dec 11, 2010
  • shapjul rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It does take a little bit to get into this book, but then I was totally hooked. It's about a young woman who is in the process of discovering that her life is not as she has thought it to be. It unfolds slowly and you go right along with her. I found it quite compelling, although it is over-the-top in places.

Sep 21, 2010
  • doodletoo rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Could not get through this. Too fluffy and gimmicky.

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Jul 09, 2012
  • atsfromcleve rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

atsfromcleve thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Pessl, Marisha
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