I seem to find myself struggling to know what to say since this book is also outside the realm of the obvious discourse. Last week I read The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna. One thing I think YA does more than other mediums is the eccentric or geek girl. The outsider narrative. When it shows up in other media the girl is one of the following:
- The secondary character – BFF –type. Think of the best friend in pretty much every romantic comedy.
- If the character is a main character then it is a Pygmalion myth. Think She’s All That.
Anyways in YA the main character can be eccentric, an outsider. It a voice deliberately cultivated in this medium. And Luna has done that with Sophie in The Theory of Everything. She has all the trappings of Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
- She makes her own clothes and dresses like no one else (“’You look unique’, Mom said, flashing a half smile. “Like no one else.’
- She listens to 80s mix tapes on a Walkman (“I could hold my own in a conversation about Depeche Mode but was a total mess when it came to anything else”).
- And oh yes, she sees things – band concerts, dancing pandas, hearts melting off sleeves, and so on. It is said early on “She sees the world differently, and that is a good thing.”
However where the MPSG is a construction of other’s vision more often than not, in this case she is the narrator. And she doesn’t want to be this person, this outsider. In this sense she has a sad girl thing going on – her “episodes” make her different, isolate her, and she sublimates this into isolating herself and silence. But she presents a little differently because there are things that mark her as an outsider that she embraces – like her personal style. Because you have access to interior dialogue you know she is struggling to find strength, resilience, and to be ok.
YA does this more I think than other medias – allows for the outsider narrative to be the main narrative without trying to normalize the behavior. You know take of the glasses, put on a new dress, get the hot boy. Or become popular because you did the right thing.
What makes this book itself difficult to categorize is that it isn’t contemporary realistic but it reads like it. I am not even sure you can put this in a genre. And that makes analysis of Sophie a little difficult. As to this project I am not sure there is a clear discourse of what it means to be a girl – other than it is drama filled, and a good boy (both Finny the gay friend and Drew, the love interest) can make everything right. I do think it does well with the it’s ok to be yourself message. But is that how it gets read?
Oh – and someday I want to follow up on this
and how it works in YA including the backlash to the skit (which I thought was funny – and has echoes of Amy’s rant in Gone Girl – particularly around sports and hamburger eating.