The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

The Theory of EverythingThe Theory of Everything
By Kari Luna
Published July 11th 2013 by Philomel
Genre | Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Review |★ ★ ★ ★

The pandas are coming…

Aww, aren’t they cute?

The Theory of Everything is one part 1980’s, two parts Donni Darko, three parts String Theory and four parts of adorable. A nice cool contemporary cocktail that suited my taste buds.

This is a coming-of-age story about a fourteen year old girl named Sophie Sophia. She’s a young girl stuck in the analog age, wears themed outfits, and loves 80’s music. She goes through things that a handful of teenagers her age go through: getting used to a new school, making friends, dealing with the trauma of a father that walked out on her, and receiving advice from her shaman panda. Wait, what was the last part? Oh, I may have forgotten to mention that Sophie has episodes, meaning she sees things that others don’t see. Now, this could mean that Sophie hallucinates or something else, but her episodes are so much fun to read about. It’s like if you combined the movie Donni Darko and Fantasia together you would get Sophie’s various episodes. Really trippy stuff. 😀

I feel like a lot of the books I enjoy have an amazing cast of characters and this book is no exception. Sophie is an adorable little girl finding her way in life, going through a journey of self-discovery. And then there are her two best friends.

First off, there’s Walt. Sophie’s shaman panda who plays poker, attempted to conduct a panda marching band and gives enigmatic fortune-cookie advice. I honestly wished there was more of him in the book, but he showed up when he needed to. He’s a lovable panda. The kind who is more likely to give a hug, rather than a right-hook like other zoo pandas.

Then there’s Finny….

Finny, Finny, Finny…a.k.a. Fab Physics Boy, a.k.a Sophie’s best friend, a.k.a. the guy who knows how to do friendship the right way! Awhile back, Lottie @ Book Adoration discussed the absence of friends in Young Adult Fiction. Where were the friends in YA? It can’t be all be love triangles and junk. Well, I’m happy to say that the friendship between Sophie and Finny is a true testament to what a  YA friendship should be. This is the guy that sticks with his best friend through thick and thin, through the ups and downs and brings out the comfort coffee when necessary. At first, I thought things were going to go differently. Sophie started out as the weird new girl with no friends when all of a sudden Fab Physics Boy pops out of nowhere. Now, in the YA books I’ve read the guy who sticks out like a sore thumb to the protagonist is usually a potential love interest. NOPE, not this time. And that’s not a bad thing. I adored Finny and wished I had a Finny of my own.

That’s not to say there isn’t romance in this book, because there is. A rainbow-vomit inducing teen romance to be precise. No, there’s no hot passionate make-out session you can read about, but there is a sweet romance present. It’s mainly the awkwardness and adorableness of a first love. But gosh-darn-it, it’s freaking cute! By the end of the book, I was squeeing like crazy because of the cuteness.

I love how the underlying theme is love. Not just romantic love, but also the love between daughter and mother, daughter and father and between friends. I feel like a lot of Young Adult Fiction books try to sell off physical attraction as love, but that wasn’t the case with this book. Love isn’t all happy endings. It’s also the hurt, the struggle and the ability to pick yourself up after being broken. It’s a really nice message once you think about it.

The only issue I had with the book, a really small issue, was the lingo and 80’s references used. I am not an 80’s child, nor do I have any attachment to 80’s music. So sad to say, all the 80’s band references were completely lost on me (sorry!). I had to look up who Morrissey was, what Ray Ban glasses looked like and even looked up some of the bands mentioned on YouTube. I think my lack of 80’s music knowledge really lessen my reading experience. If I did, I’d probably be fangirling even more over this book. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy The Theory of Everything because I thoroughly did. The story itself is very relatable. I honestly really wanted to see where this journey would take these kids and the trippy episodes were always a pleasure to read. 😀

Would I recommend it?

Recommend! If you’re a paranormal lover like me and want to dive into contemporary, this is a good book to start with. But before you start, I also recommend embracing your inner 80’s as well.

21 thoughts on “The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

  1. I really wouldn’t mind if pandas were coming. They will only bring more cuteness to life 😛
    And oh my gosh, this book sounds so adorable and weird! I’m going to snatch it as soon as I can 😀 Sophie seems like a fantastic, unique character. (And I really wouldn’t mind some trippy episodes.) Walt is a panda so I love him already. Funny sounds… he just sounds amazing. And wooh for friendship~

    Great review and thanks for linking to me !

    • For me it depends on my mood. Some days I want to read something cute, other times I want a “sexy romance”, haha. I was often lost whenever something 80’s was mentioned. I didn’t know any of the songs or bands at all >_< Also, high five for being a 90's kid 😀

  2. I was an 80’s kid so that made up a huge part of the charm, to me. But I also loved the cuteness of the romance, and mostly Sophie Sophia’s friendship with Finny. I’m always hoping for more good depictions of friendship in YA fiction!

    • Yeah, I felt like I really missed out on that charm because I couldn’t relate. Luckily this book was charming in other ways as well 😀 I’m the same too, YA fiction really shouldn’t forget about the friends!

  3. Pandas!!! <333 Come to meeee, shaman panda! Awww, this sounds/looks cute and adorable and after reading your review I just had to put it onto my tbr. I love LOVE odd/trippy books so The Theory of Everything sounds right up my alley. Finny sounds great and I'm all for real non-romantic friendships.
    I'm pretty sure I won't be getting the 80′s references either (had to google Morrissey and Ray Ban) but "little" things like that never bother me 🙂

    Thanks for the fantastic review!

    • Haha. If given the chance, I would totally love to a have my own shaman panda! If that’s the case, I do hope you get a chance to read it. I was terrified this book would be a miss, but it proved enjoyable (at least for me).

      Thanks for the compliment 🙂

  4. This sounds like such a cute book, even though there;s a girl who hallucinates in it. I mean, Pandas? PANDAAAS?! I’m in. And I love that there is true friendship in this book, I’ve been really missing those. I gotta say, though, it was the title that brought me in. The Theory of Everything? Intriguing!

    • I know right? Pandas are great 🙂 I wonder if people would still be attracted to the book if the shaman was written as a different animal, like a flamingo or koala or something? The whole packaging of the book drew me in (cover & title). The title is a reference to some sciency stuff that I didn’t really understand at first (I don’t even clearly understand it right now :p), but the science didn’t deter my enjoyment of the book 🙂

  5. Pingback: Monthly Reading List | September 2013 + Announcement | booksoverflowers

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