Meet Blue Van Meer, the preternaturally erudite heroine of Marisha Pessl's hilarious yet heartrending debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Never having lived in a place longer than it takes for most people to get a mortgage approval, she has been raised and educated by her brilliant, handsome, big-hearted (even bigger-mouthed), academic tome-citing, neo-Marxist, womanizing, Swiss professor father, Gareth Van Meer. Moving from one academic outpost to another, Blue's been subjected to father-daughter "Sonnet-a-Thons" (memorizing "The Wasteland" in rigid, half-hour driving segments), and "The Van Meer Radio Theater Hour" ("Blue, I can't fully distinguish Gwendolyn's sophisticated upper class accent from Cicely's girlish country one. Try to make them more distinct!")
Things change when Gareth decides to settle for one year in one place before Blue goes off to Harvard. There at the St. Gallway School Blue blossoms from a shy, impressionable girl into a truly wise, independent young woman who, aside from her Nabokovian impulse to annotate and cite as incessantly as her father, she also learns the limitations of erudition; the perils and pleasures of wit; of love and lust; loyalty and betrayal; murder (or is it suicide?) and mayhem.