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Special Topics in Calamity Physics

by Marisha Pessl

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,2872981,286 (3.63)335
A darkly funny coming-of-age novel and a richly plotted suspense tale told through the distinctive voice of its heroine, Blue van Meer. After a childhood moving from one academic outpost to another with her father (a man prone to aphorisms and meteoric affairs), Blue is clever, deadpan, and possessed of a vast lexicon of literary, political, philosophical, and scientific knowledge--and is quite the cinéaste to boot. In her final year of high school at the élite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, Blue falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. But when the drowning of one of Hannah's friends and the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries, Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to guide--or misguide--her.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 172
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Eumenides, shellibrary, Littlemissmops)
  2. 40
    The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Precocious young women in small towns.
  3. 30
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (kinsey_m)
  4. 20
    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (zhejw)
    zhejw: I loved both books, but Pessl's is a notch up in language, character development, and plot. Lockhart's is the place for teens to start.
  5. 10
    The Likeness by Tana French (samalots)
    samalots: Also about a group of elite school friends dealing with a mysterious death in their circle
  6. 10
    The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer in-detail insights into life as a young adult when interacting with others.
  7. 00
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (krist_ellis)
  8. 22
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (krist_ellis)
  9. 00
    The Idiot by Elif Batuman (beyondthefourthwall)
  10. 00
    Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (beyondthefourthwall)
    beyondthefourthwall: Families that seem close on the surface but under the surface turn out to have a lot of multilayered mysterious secrets.
  11. 44
    Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag (lorax)
  12. 11
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Littlemissmops)
  13. 11
    My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer sharp humor offered by a student.
  14. 11
    Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (Mossa)
  15. 01
    Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (sarahemmm)
    sarahemmm: This is worth trying if you like the unusual format of Pessl's book.
  16. 01
    The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (Lillydarlene)
    Lillydarlene: The intensity of friendship that comes with being in high school, and with being an isolated group, with a dark secret in the background. Both of these are good if you've read The Secret History and are hungry for a similar feel.
  17. 12
    Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (lycomayflower)
  18. 34
    Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books look at issues encountered by one particular student.
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» See also 335 mentions

English (283)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (299)
Showing 1-5 of 283 (next | show all)
What to say about this book? Maybe the best thing to say is I rated it two stars because I liked it but only in the sense that I didn't absolutely hate it.

Having read Pessl's [b:Night Film|18770398|Night Film|Marisha Pessl|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1397425352s/18770398.jpg|15182838] before I read this, I did notice a pattern of open-endedness to her work. Many things left unanswered by the author so that the reader's own mind fills in the blanks. But where Night Film offered up identifiable characters that I felt connected to, thus, making me want to fill in the blanks, I was just left not caring enough about Blue or anyone else in Special Topics to bother thinking that hard about it. ( )
  tetsuyasquared | Mar 12, 2022 |
I liked Blue, the main character, because she was extraordinary. I don't aim to read about people like ourselves, living ordinary, everyday lives- I read to have adventures. For right now, when I am the same age as Blue, it was lovely to see her senior year unfold, to read about something so fantastically implausible.
It was not a perfect book. I found Pessl's style hard to adjust to, so I spent the first few chapters feeling like I should put down this book and go read a classic. But eventually Blue's obsessive citing grew on me. Her narration was entirely in character, as she tried to categorize and organize the experiences she had, just like her father organized his life into college semesters.
I also felt pity for most of the characters at the end. There was not a single character that was not pathetic at some point in the book. But this also reflects life, and was valuable for that. I liked this book; it has earned a place on my shelf. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
Ambitious, cartwheeling, careening -- this novel is like a bullet train that has no stops. The author uses a lot of devices - including citation that can be real but mmost of the time refers to fictional sources. The rate of the use of this device is breathtaking. I couldn't believe that Pessl was able to keep it up. Alothough the sheer number of citations can't help but slow the plot they do add quite a bit once I was able to surrender myself to the fact they were just going to keep appearing. Sometimes its just an small chuckle, usually when a citation to some kid of nature related book is used to underline the appearance of behaviour of a character - sometimes they are used to underline or make something clearer. (not that you could actually look up the citation - but the name of the book cited is sometimes revealing enough. Anyway, this book just rolls. It is like one of those small rocks that starts an avalanche. There is no way to know it isn't more than the story of a girl in highschool but it morphs and morphs until the plot has taken so many sharp turns its hard to believe where you end up. Anyway, I liked it-ish. It wasn't an easy read for me. It was really dense. But - even though it took me three weeks to get through - and sometimes I was swearing at it. I think it is really masterfully done. I'd love to read it with other people, but I do think I will go through it again one day - I think there would be a lot to get out of it on a subsequent read. ( )
  alanna1122 | Dec 17, 2021 |
I honestly don't have a full picture of what I think of this book. I know it took my forever to read, I know I lugged through it at times (those fucking see insert book here page whatever drove me INSANE. They were incredibly annoying and caused me to skip over a lot) and I still have no real clear view what I think happened in the end. I think....the idea was nothing new, but it was interesting, the characters had potential and I WANTED to like it. I think it was longer (and more pretentious, esp like I said those fucking inserts) than it needed to be. There was a lot of story where nothing was happening, information you just didn't need. The end felt rushed after almost 400 pages of slow going. I don't know, I didn't actually hate it, but I guess I'm still making up my mind. ( )
  banrions | Dec 7, 2021 |
A complex narrative that requires patience and commitment to fully grasp the plot and its many deviances. Pessl has a gift with words and, this book being her debut, I'm impressed with her talent.

( )
  _Marcia_94_ | Sep 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 283 (next | show all)
Her exhilarating synthesis of the classic and the modern, frivolity and fate — “Pnin” meets “The O.C.” — is a poetic act of will. Never mind jealous detractors: virtuosity is its own reward. And this skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more.

 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pessl, Marishaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Card, Emily JaniceNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Devaux, LaetitiaTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Anne and Nic
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Dad always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it.
"Unless your name is something along the lines of Mozart, Matisse, Churchill, or Bond--James Bond--you best spend your free time finger painting or playing shuffleboard, for no one, with the exception of your flabby-armed mother with stiff hair and a mashed-potato way of looking at you, will want to hear the particulars of your pitiable existence, which doubtlessly will end as it began--with a wheeze."
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Wikipedia in English (3)

A darkly funny coming-of-age novel and a richly plotted suspense tale told through the distinctive voice of its heroine, Blue van Meer. After a childhood moving from one academic outpost to another with her father (a man prone to aphorisms and meteoric affairs), Blue is clever, deadpan, and possessed of a vast lexicon of literary, political, philosophical, and scientific knowledge--and is quite the cinéaste to boot. In her final year of high school at the élite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, Blue falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. But when the drowning of one of Hannah's friends and the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries, Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to guide--or misguide--her.--From publisher description.

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Book description
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the dazzling debut of Marisha Pessl, is a buoyant combination of comedy, tragedy, mystery, and romance, a story of disturbing secrets and the eccentric high school student who uncovers them. It is a coming-of-age tale and a disturbing mystery. a snapshot of the dark relationship between ideology and violence but also the poignant tale of a young woman learning to stand on her own.
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Average: (3.63)
0.5 11
1 63
1.5 17
2 149
2.5 41
3 382
3.5 152
4 573
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