Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

68%

16 Critic Reviews

The initially droll bibliographical referencing, there to show Blue's pedantic nature and her father's influence, quickly becomes wearisome, but it is the style that is the novel's biggest failing.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The mesmerizing New York Times bestseller by the author of Night Film

Marisha Pessl’s dazzling debut sparked raves from critics and heralded the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds some—a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel—with visual aids drawn by the author—that has won over readers of all ages.
 

About Marisha Pessl

See more books from this Author
Marisha Pessl graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University.
 
Published August 3, 2006 by Penguin Books. 529 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Sports & Outdoors. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Special Topics in Calamity Physics
All: 16 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 6

Kirkus

Below average
on May 20 2010

The writing is clever, the text rich with subtle literary allusion. But while even the gimmicks work well (chapters are structured like a literature syllabus; hand-drawn visual aids appear throughout), they don’t compensate for the fact that The Secret History came first.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Liesl Schillinger on Aug 13 2008

The joys of this shrewdly playful narrative lie not only in the high-low darts and dives of Pessl’s tricky plotting, but in her prose, which floats and runs as if by instinct, unpremeditated and unerring.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Peter Dempsey on Jan 01 2008

The initially droll bibliographical referencing, there to show Blue's pedantic nature and her father's influence, quickly becomes wearisome, but it is the style that is the novel's biggest failing.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Jan 01 2008

A wry sendup of most of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Mar 02 2009

What seems to be a standard coming-of-age tale morphs into a murder mystery… then into a book of political intrigue, among other things. Nothing is what is seems in Pessl’s story, and almost every character — and the characters here sparkle and intrigue by turns — presents a puzzle, both to Blue and to the reader.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Bianca Chamusco on Jun 29 2010

Marisha Pessl reads like a younger, hipper, zanier version of Donna Tartt with a punchier penchant for original metaphor; her relentlessly erudite prose, while difficult at first to absorb, becomes a pleasure to read.

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Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Alexis Burling on Jan 23 2011

Many readers will still slog through the minutiae to find themselves fully captivated by Pessl's scintillating world of intrigue.

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AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Noel Murray on Sep 14 2008

Pessl goes a little over the top with her fake literary references, and she sometimes stalls the narrative too long in order to follow dead ends in Blue's love life, or to share Gareth's professional cynicism.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Reese on Jan 01 2008

This delectably convoluted postmodern mystery balloons to incorporate false identities, Daddy, a 1970s radical group, butterflies, and Blue's first, feverish crush.

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Pajiba

Below average
Reviewed by Brian Prisco on Jan 01 2008

The novel reads like a massive chain restaurant dessert.

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Salon

Good
Reviewed by Laura Miller on Jan 01 2008

Marisha Pessl's ambitious debut is a literary mystery -- a blend of "The Secret History" and Salinger's Glass stories -- with that rarest of delights: A great ending.

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Booklist Online

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Cart on Jan 01 2008

This extravagantly arch and self-conscious coming-of-age novel turns into a murder mystery that—although never as Hitchcockian as its publisher claims—is, nevertheless, almost compelling enough to warrant its excessive length.

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Baby Got Books

Above average
Reviewed by Baby Got Books on Jan 01 2008

It's not perfect. It very nearly lives up to the hype. And that’s OK with me.

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Alibi

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Lenard-Cook on Jan 01 2008

Part of the novel’s charm lies in Blue’s voice, one part confident tour guide, one part self-conscious outsider and one part Lost Child.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by KatsK on Mar 24 2014

Special Topics in Calamity Physics explores a first love, intelligence, murder, school, and popularity.It also has some images The characters are very believable, as well. I stayed up way too late reading this book.

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Gather Books

Above average
Reviewed by Janelle Martin on Jan 01 2008

A difficult novel to penetrate and within which to gauge what truly happened to Hannah Schneider.

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Reader Rating for Special Topics in Calamity Physics
71%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 616 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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