Jonathan Safran Foer.
Mari-who? Don’t worry, no one else has heard of her, either. But that’s about to change, as Pessl joins the ranks of literary wunderkinds with her zany, erudite, page-turning debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics.
The novel’s narrator is hyper-literate Blue van Meer, daughter of a butterfly-collecting mother (who died in an accident when Blue was young) and a political science professor father whose lecturing schedule has them crossing state lines every semester.
The pair settles in a small Southern town so Blue can spend her senior year at an elite private school. She’s befriended by a glam clique known as the Bluebloods and its charismatic mentor, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. Things are looking up until someone is killed, the Bluebloods turn vicious, and Blue finds herself at the center of a murder mystery — without a clue.
Special Topics is structured around a Great Works syllabus and cross-references a gajillion other texts. You’ll hear echoes of Salinger’s Glass clan, the subversive noir of Highsmith, a campy deadpan of Nabokov, and the manic gamesmanship of Pynchon.
And Marisha Pessl? You’re going to be hearing a lot more about her.
Available online at amazon.com.