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Special Topics in Calamity Physics Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Special Topics in Calamity Physics


Blue Van Meer discovers the truth behind her teacher's mysterious death. Blue Van Meer is a 17-year old high school senior; and she's always had the feeling that her life contains too many secrets. Blue travels the southern regions of United States with her father Gareth, a well-reputed political science professor and popular author. The father and daughter duo live itinerant, if relatively carefree lives. Gareth accepts temporary teaching posts in various towns. Blue feels dragged along, and resents the constant motion. She's happy when Gareth announces that the two will reside in Stockton, North Carolina for the duration of her senior year.
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Blue meets several schoolmates who tell her about a secret club called the BlueBloods. The BlueBloods are organized by a cool, hip young arts teacher named Ms. Hannah Schneider. Blue's best friend Luelah invites her to join the group for a spring camping trip. On the desolate, deserted campgrounds, Hannah Schneider goes missing. Blue discovers her dead body hanging from an oak tree in a nearby clearing.

Startled, distressed, and traumatized, the camping group disbands. The police arrive to investigate the scene. At home, Blue starts her own investigation with the help of her friend Luelah. Together, they piece together the true story of Ms. Schneider's death, and her life as well.

The two girls learn that Hannah Schneider was a core member of an underground group of radical, violent political ideologues. Hannah had in fact been grooming the BlueBloods to become members of this underground political association. However, when Hannah began to suspect that a political enemy was out to murder her, she decided to flee town. Hannah's plan was to stage her own death and escape off the campgrounds. In an act of carelessness that can only be attributed to extreme anxiety, Hannah ended up snapping the noose as she was ensnared in the rope, thus accidentally killing herself. A final calamitous surprise is delivered upon Blue when she learns that her own father, Gareth, is also a member of this violent political ring. Gareth abandons Blue, presumably out of selfish concern for his own safety. In the end, Blue is left alone, to contemplate the secrets of her childhood, and the type of future she wises to make for herself.
Best part of story, including ending: The action is nicely balanced with character development. Pessl lets the reader in on Blue's subjective experience. At the same tim, she keeps us thoroughly entertained with fast-paced action and a good dose of literary suspense.

Best scene in story: Blue informs her father of what she's figured out regarding Hannah's death. As the two discuss the implications of Blue's discover, Blue grows uneasy. Something about her dad's reaction seems disingenuous. Blue becomes ill and excuses herself to the bathroom. This scene demonstrates the almost subconscious nature of Blue's precociousness. Her growing distrust of dad is well-founded; and Blue herself doesn't yet know just how well-founded it is.

Opinion about the main character: Blue Van Meer has the spirit and energy of a consummate explorer. She's always seeking; always right at the edge of her zones comfort and familiarity. Despite being uncomfortable outdoors, she agrees to go camping with her new friends. She's the first to start investigating Hannah's death. She is generally fearless in the face of uncertainty, and remains calm even in the face of significant danger.

The review of this Book prepared by Jessica a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of Special Topics in Calamity Physics

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Crime & Police story    -   Yes Story of    -   catching a killer Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)

Setting

How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Deep South Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Marisha Pessl Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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