REVIEWED BY LIZA NELSON
This blockbuster debut, over 500 pages chock-full of literary and pop cultural references and illustrations by Pessl herself, demands attention. The author uses a full arsenal of verbal tricks to tell the coming-of-age story of the brilliant if prematurely sardonic narrator Blue van Meer. Blue has spent a motherless childhood moving with her adored father, a political science professor, as he takes one semester-long position after another. Early in her senior year at a private high school in North Carolina, Blue is invited into an elite clique under the sway of a charismatic teacher. Behind Blue's sarcasm and verbiage is a lonely girl who thinks she's finally discovered friendship. But even before she finds her teacher hanging by an electrical cord in the woods, the novel has turned into a whodunit with overlays of conspiracy, murder and betrayal. As dazzling as they are, Pessl's literary pyrotechnics are just a sideshow; it's her irresistible heroine Blue who makes the novel's heart beat.