- The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna
Illinois is a new home for Sophie Sophia and her mother, who have a habit of packing up and moving whenever there’s something they’re trying to get away from. These days they’re trying to get away from Sophie’s “episodes,” where she hallucinates events—admittedly, quirky, interesting, and often enjoyable events—that aren’t actually happening. The escape plan is a failure, since Sophie begins sophomore year with a vision of an all-panda marching band; she does, however, make an immediate best friend of Finny, a boy who’s besotted with physics and therefore thrilled that Sophie’s estranged father is a famous physicist. Since Dad also experienced reality-bending episodes, Sophie decides it’s time to find him again after his leaving the family four years ago, so she and Finny take off to New York to find Angelino Sophia and his story. Luna has a vibrant, quotable style that gives Sophie’s narration considerable charm, and Sophie’s longing for her beloved, if unpredictable, father is poignantly expressed through her flashbacks to her life with him. The story stumbles, however, on plotting: Sophie’s string-theory-based hypothesis that her episodes are travels into a parallel universe is insufficiently explanatory, and the book teeters awkwardly between realism and speculation, acknowledging the possibility of hallucinatory illness but brushing it off. Additionally, [End Page 223] secondary characters are appealing but convenient; this is especially true of Finny, the adoring gay best friend with no needs of his own. Sophie herself remains enjoyable company, though, and readers may find that sufficient compensation for their literary travels.