Fall is the Perfect Time for the Dark Academia of 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics'

Fall is the Perfect Time for the Dark Academia of 'Special Topics in Calamity Physics'

Thursday, 23 September, 2021

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.


Crisp leaves crunching underfoot and wind beginning to blow chill are signs that it’s time to fall into a twisted tale set amidst the hallowed halls of academia. Dusty library shelves? Check. Dark secrets and dangerous liaisons? Yes. A charismatic teacher with perilous pull? Most definitely. Conversations of scholarship and subtext? No doubt.

The heroine of this dark-as-pitch, coming-of-age/suspense novel is 16-year-old Blue van Meer. The clever, bookish equivalent of an army brat, Blue has accompanied her much-adored — but still exasperating — father from one academic assignment to another.

For her last year before college, he promises an entire academic year in a single school: St. Gallway in Stockton, North Carolina. She’s soon shocked to find herself part of the cool kids’ clique — the Blue-Bloods — and under the spell of her charismatic teacher Hannah.

When death twice visits St. Gallway, this coming-of-age story transforms into a riveting mystery novel. Blue turns informal investigator to learn the whys of the situation and realizes that people are far more complex than the characters on the pages of the books she loves.

Based on the structure of an academic syllabus and packed with literary name-dropping and slippery footnotes — some that reference faux scholarly works — this novel is a page-turning mashup of book love, character study, and murder mystery.

‘Always live your life with your biography in mind,’ Dad was fond of saying. ‘Naturally, it won’t be published unless you have a Magnificent Reason, but at the very least you will be living grandly.’ — Marisha Pessl

This twisty mystery (528 pages) was published in August of 2006 by Penguin. The book takes you to a posh private school. Melissa read Special Topics in Calamity Physics and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics


Top image courtesy of Fabian Mardi/Unsplash.

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