January 20, 2007
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Special Topics in Calamity Physics

by Marisha Pessl

Blue van Meer is sixteen, preternaturally smart, and her professorial father "always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it." She figured she'd be seventy before she was ready, but life intervened and here she is, sitting in he freshman dorm room in Harvard Yard, setting pen to paper.

I took a deep breath. At the top of the page, I wrote in my neatest handwriting, “Curriculum.’ and then, “Required Reading.”

That was always how Dad began.

Each of the thirty six chapters is aptly named for a Great Book. A schematic of the climax is brilliant in itself: "Good Country People" (O'Connor), The Trial (Kafka), Paradise Lost (Milton), The Secret Garden (Burnett), and Metamorphoses (Ovid). This is the second wonderful novel of Senior Year in a year (see Sittenfield, Prep ) and it's wonderful. A special delight for the bookish and a novel of the moment, this one is not to be missed and not to be put off.