Thursday, November 14, 2013


Although writing commitments have taken me away from my beloved Bookanistas this year, I decided to post this review on a Thursday all the same. And hop on along to the Bookanista site for more great reviews!

Plot without spoilers...Sixteen-year-old, motherless Blue Van Meer has spent her life traveling from one college town to the next with her noted professor father, living a loner's life at the many schools she attends. Then the pair land in Stockton, NC, where Blue begins studying at the elite St. Gallway School, and finds herself becoming part of a powerful clique known as the Bluebloods who themselves seem to operate under the spell of a mysterious adjunct professor named Hannah Schneider. Plots of death and deception play out between engaging line-drawn art by the author and voluminous citations from masterworks of literary fiction and nonfiction.

Of literary interest...Pessl's language is delicious. From  "...weird, grown-up youth, which was like gardenias blooming in January" (p. 70) to a "soft, wisteria-fairy-pin of a smile" (p. 198), and on and on, I found myself turning the book I thought would be donated to the library into a dog-eared underlined keeper-of-deliciousness.

Finally, just gotta say...The novel, to me, is a musing on the WHO we want to be remembered as (sorry for that bad grammar). The plot-twist at the end was satisfyingly surprising if a little breathless. While I continue to struggle to unravel my feelings about the ending, it is with certainty that I encourage you to read Special Topics for its spectacular language.

And a question...With its sixteen-year-old protagonist and prep school setting, WHY COULDN'T ONE CATEGORIZE THIS BOOK AS YA? It is far less steamy than a lot of YA/New Adult I've seen. And I think the footnotes and literary allusions are comprehensible to those with weaker personal bibliographies (starting with me!). Selfishly, I wonder if being categorized as literary fiction gives the book stronger legs (I think so). This question isn't a judgement on this novel. Titles like THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES and THE BOOK THIEF also seem to me to be equally categorizable as YA or adult. Maybe some books are just both.

What do you think?


Crystal Collier said...

I think there are many books that cross genre lines and could be safely categorized in multiple locations, but we have to have our boundaries, eh?

Stasia said...

As long as the book finds its readers in the end, perhaps it doesn't matter. Perhaps sometimes I just get a little squiggly about all the boxing and categorizing that happens to words these days :) Thanks for stopping by, Crystal!