Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Sigh. I got swept up in the hype surrounding this book and at the end of the 500+ page journey have to admit lukewarm feelings for Pessl’s first book (which created a sudden burst of media around how attractive authors’ first books merit large advances).
Each chapter is titled after a famous work of literature, something calculated to lure me in to the work. After having read it, it seems more like an editorial ploy; the titles had little bearing on the actual chapters. The writing is definitely good, readable, mind-stretching at times. But it dragged on, a bit wordy.
Story outline: Blue Van Meer is a precocious smartie who travels the US with her professor father as he bops from lecture gig to lecture gig. She reads, a lot. Her senior year is spent in Stockton, NC, where she becomes involved with a clique called the Bluebloods (Jade, Milton, Nigel, Charles, Leulah) and their teacher/mentor/friend Hannah. Things start unravelling when a man named Smokey dies at Hannah’s costume party (drowned, ruled accidental). Hannah takes the kids camping, lures Blue into the woods, blurts some preposterous things then disappears and is found hung. Blue is found hours later, miles from the campsite, by a father/son out fishing for the weekend. The others are found a few days later, and blame Blue for Hannah’s death. Then begins Blue’s investigation, which leads her to the conclusion that Hannah, the man they stayed in Paris with, and her dad are all part of the Nightwatchmen, a radical group from the 70s. Her dad ends up abandoning her, but conveniently has a trust fund set up which she receives the account number to a few days after he leaves. Blue finally believes that her mother commited suicide when she discovered her husband was having an affair with Hannah, when Blue was in kindergarden.
Last chapter is incredibly hokey– a Final Exam with multiple choice questions about the characters within the story.

auth=Pessl, Marisha