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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  649 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
It's Girl Interrupted meets Miranda July—with a touch of Joan Didion—in this captivating collection of original essays revolving around a young American girl's coming of age in Paris. As an adolescent in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava found an unconventional way to deal with her social awkwardness and feelings of uncertainty about the future by taking solace from the ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Harper
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Kaylyssa Hughes
Apr 19, 2013 Kaylyssa Hughes rated it it was ok
The two stars are for the look and feel of the book itself and for Matthew Nelson's lovely drawings.

I found this book impossible to relate to. The obsession with objects and the book-report-like footnotes served no purpose but to keep the reader at a distance by avoiding human emotion. There is no humor in the book; instead, LaCava takes herself and her experience so seriously that it's confusing. I wanted to laugh when she walked out of the dance and threw herself face-down into the dirt with
Feb 18, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok
I bought this in Paris at the Bookmarc store as I'm a sucker for a nicely produced hardback and it was set in Paris. I'm sure if she weren't known for writing in fashion this would not have got published. Much as I liked sections of it, I felt uncomfortable after I finished it. She writes about her depression but doesn't account for how she got through it. I really think she glamorises anorexia. She takes the narrative to a point where she collapses after not eating for several days and talks ab ...more
May 03, 2013 Janiece rated it did not like it
Awful. Irritating self-indulgent author, and it needed much tighter editing. Its title was misleading. Only good thing was the content of the footnotes, but with the way the book was designed, these broke up the reading experience and were an irritation. it's a shame you can't jusge a book by its cover, as it's a gorgeous looking book. Fail.
Feb 08, 2014 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Woof. A very dear friend sent this to me knowing my affinity for all things Paris. But this book was just narcissistic and pointless, and she isn't actually in Paris for the majority of the book, but the banlieue/suburbs (nitpicking, but valid). The author tries so hard to be deep and eloquent and falls embarrassingly short. The prose reeks of desperation (her depression is kicked off because no boys want to dance with her at a school dance, so she goes into the forest and lays facedown in the d ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Dana rated it it was ok
A book more concept than content; more mood than meaning, and ultimately, as ephemeral and snooty as the fashion mags the author refers to repeatedly. Two stars to honor the interesting concept and lovely drawings; other than that, this book taught me little about LaCava's life or her obsession with things.

What seems like it began as a promising personal essay for a CNF class became a strangely elided memoir. Although some scenes from LaCava's life are clearly drawn, others are simply confusing
Jul 04, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
I really wanted to this book to be so much more. As an Interior Designer, the premise was intriguing as I, too, was one of those girls who believes in creating one's own world and I am drawn to and hold dear special objects. While I think Ms LaCava's book aimed for quirky this book was awkward and disjointed and also a little whiny. I imagine it can be hard to be whisked away to France during one's tween years, however, it's hard to sympathize with the author. I do empathize with her struggle ov ...more
Have I mentioned that I will do anything Flavorpill tells me to?

Here's what they say about this one, which is on their "10 New Must-Reads for December" list:

A collector to her bones, Stephanie LaCava’s first book is a series of wistfully illustrated essays that lead us through her youth growing up in a foreign land, dropping precious objects like breadcrumbs. “I was obsessed with cabinets of curiosities, historical efforts to catalog and control nature’s oddities,” she writes. By the end of thi
Feb 18, 2013 Gail rated it it was ok
I sympathized with the author as a child who feels detached from the world around her, but the book really reads like a long essay. Nothing is resolved, no conclusions are neatly pulled together, which I found a bit disappointing. There is no ending, and I have questions. Does the author suffer from another breakdown? Has she sought help for her depression? There is a sense of sweetness to the story, but overall I found it just a little too vague.
Nov 12, 2012 Petya rated it really liked it
Complete review + Interview with Stephanie LaCava on my blog here:

The book took my breath away.

Precocious children frequently find a way of growing up to be good tellers of their own stories. But this book is different because its power lies not so much in the odd childhood details it gives but in the emotional depth that it shares. The chronology surprised me but I most enjoyed it when it made me feel lost. The book is beautifully bound and features orig
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I didn't know what to expect with this book. While the blurb tells me something ('A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate’s coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects.') it didn't convey, I think, the real personality LaCava brings to her book. In further crankiness, I thought the subtitle ('A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris') as off-the-mark as the blurb. I found this book to be a memoir of depression, portrayed in a series of pl ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 14, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
This book is a differently and originally written type of memoir. Moving to Paris as a child, Stephanie feels a strong disconnect to her own life and emotions. Objects, which had always been important to her, become even more so as she uses them to feel a connection to life. She collects archaic facts and figures about people and objects and these also help to fill in the void. Quite a different and inventive way to deal with her loneliness and subsequent depression. I love trivia, and O found t ...more
Jan 14, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
This was an interesting little book. A memoir about the author's time that she lived in France with her family as an early adolescent. She struggles with depression and she collects objects that she finds interesting and surrounds herself with these objects as well as facts, lists, etc. in an effort to make sense of her life and the people in it.

I think there is a heavier message than this book was able to convey and it did not appear to me that the author learned all that much about herself (as
Dec 11, 2015 Pammie rated it it was ok
Angsty teenaged girl living in Paris. From an adult standpoint, this is enough to make me throw my hands in the air in disgust, but I can understand how Stephanie would feel isolated, especially given the bullying she was subjected to at school. It isn't easy being an awkward teen, and being in Paris living an upper-class privileged life wouldn't make much difference to a kid. The other kids at her school were execrable, her parents distant and clueless, and she's lucky she had the strength to a ...more
Apr 06, 2015 Maddy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was originally drawn to the gorgeous presentation including footnotes, illustrations, and even the fragmented essay structure. Also, many of us can relate with assigning almost sacred meaning to objects in our adolescence as a way to construct our own context and place ourselves inside it. The theme and structure were both very appealing to me. My issue with this text is that the author insists on her "strangeness" and "uniqueness" (as if we didn't all experience depression and loneliness in o ...more
Alex  Armijos
Mar 20, 2016 Alex Armijos rated it did not like it
Meh. Book had a nice design (illustrations were cute, pretty color scheme, certain little touches, etc.) but the writing was just so ...contrived? It seemed as if the author was trying to make a tremendous deal out of (essentially) nothing in her situation. At times I felt I was reading a hipster's college entrance essay or something. Like every single moment was full of meaningful revelations and no one understood her artistic, complex little soul. So while this book did absolutely nothing for ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Lindsay rated it did not like it
Shelves: bio-memoir
Self-indulgent and awkward essays about teenage depression and obsession. Don't get it based on the Paris setting. One gets the feeling Paris was thoroughly wasted on this poor girl. The objects she collects are not especially interesting, nor are the little mini-histories. If you want to read an amazingly well-written book on little objects, a book that is truly extraordinary, try The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss.
Jan 20, 2013 Roxane rated it liked it
This is an interesting book. It is beautifully produced, with a lovely hardcover, line drawings, and deckled edge pages. The writing is strong and intimate and engaging. THere was a real lack of connective tissue, though, throughout the narrative. There's a really odd gap between the 90s and the aughts and I kept feeling like this memoir needed to be predicated on something a bit more substantive. Worth the read, but something's missing.
Veronika Kaufmann
Jan 23, 2015 Veronika Kaufmann rated it liked it
The subheader "Memoir of an outsider in Paris" got me since I grew up in somewhat similar circumstances (moving to Europe at a similar age, feeling like a weirdo). So I read it. I really like the first half of the book and found the writing rather lyrical. But it went downhill from there. I found Stephanie Lacava completely self-obsessed and the way she describes herself 'elfish, tall, skinny' totally off-putting. I mean, c'mon. If you want your readers to connect, relate with you, you don't go ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
I liked this. I liked the mix of 90s memoir and the footnotes about different objects (although sometimes they were a little jarring). I liked and really understood her fetishisation of objects - I too like to collect little things and also work in a museum where the stories behind the objects are part of the objects themselves. I also really enjoy hearing about rich bohemian family's lives - those people like LaCava who you see on the pages of vogue who write interesting articles and have great ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Katie rated it liked it
In Stephanie LaCava's An Extraordinary Theory of Objects, a young Stephie details her family's move to Le Vesinet, France and her feelings at being separated from friends and life in the United States. Always (by her own accounts) a little odd, Stephie continues her habit of collecting objects that bring her meaning. As her account details her coming of age, a generally carefree Stephie becomes increasingly troubled, and her interactions with intriguing boys and reigning "mean girls" at her inte ...more
Jan 20, 2013 bonnie rated it really liked it
A very lovely memoir through objects & curiosities, Stephanie LaCava takes her vulnerabilities & inner wonder, performs alchemy & creates a wonderous tale of whimsy that is relatable to any whom have also felt this same disconnectedness from the rest of the world. A fragile work of inner strength & imagination.
Brandy Shark
Mar 30, 2014 Brandy Shark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If only we could give half stars, I want to rate this as a 3.5.

LaCava reminded me of myself a bit as a child and teen. Being a bit odd, the fascination with collecting things. The writing style is beautiful, but for a memoir, it's very disjointed. It starts strong, but there isn't a rhyme or reason to the massive time jumps. There are certain areas that I think she should have expanded upon (like her treatment after her mental breakdown) and towards the end, she's not very clear why she is going
Dec 13, 2012 Karen rated it did not like it
Check out my review at my blog, Conceptual Reception:
Jul 14, 2015 Lauren rated it did not like it
What a stupid, self-absorbed waste of a book. Run away.
Meaghan Steeves
May 18, 2015 Meaghan Steeves rated it really liked it
This was truly fascinating as well as unique and one of my favourite memoirs of its kind. I have read too many books written by women about their experiences in Paris where they devoured pastries and fell in love with a frenchman. In this case we go through periods of this woman's life beginning from her pre-teen years to get an understanding of her character. While I feel like we could have delved more into her actual depression she was apparently afraid to get to personal about it, which is wh ...more
Nov 08, 2014 Marcia rated it did not like it
Not extraordinary. Not a theory. Not all that much about Paris: Teenaged Stephanie lives in a suburb and attends an American school. Interesting idea, but it goes no further than the title. There are few, if any, meaningful connections made between the objects and life being explicated. The descriptions of teen angst read as if written by a teenager, as if the author hasn't gained any distance or perspective on her adolescent emotions and still takes them oh-so-seriously. I probably would not ha ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kaeleigh Forsyth
May 18, 2013 Kaeleigh Forsyth rated it did not like it
Mason Jones
Dec 10, 2013 Mason Jones rated it liked it
This is a peculiar little book. It is a memoir of sorts, documenting the author's traumatic transition at age 12 when her family moves to the Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet. It's also a story of privilege, selfishness, and mental instability, but those are almost subcurrents that thread among the disparate memories that make up the book's chapters. Each chapter is a bit like a disassociative memory as the book proceeds bit by bit through the months and then years, skipping a decade ahead towards ...more
Vanessa Crooks
May 17, 2013 Vanessa Crooks rated it liked it
I decided to read this book precisely because of an interview the author, Stephanie LaCava, did in Vogue (the magazine for which she actually writes frequently) regarding the release of her book. It had only been out for a little while, and it didn't occur to me to look up reviews. The theme of the book interested me because I thought I would be able to identify with it. And in a way I did, but not as much as I would've hoped.
The book is Stephanie's retelling of a time in which she was forced to
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HarperCollins Int...: NEW Giveaway - Open to the UK, ANZ and India, too! 6 71 Oct 19, 2012 02:02AM  
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Stephanie LaCava is a journalist and writer working in New York City and Paris. She began her career at Vogue, in fashion and later in features, where she assisted the European Editor-at-Large of the magazine. Her writing has appeared in print and online publications such as Vogue, The Paris Review, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Interview, and Garage. She also works in translation, in part ...more
More about Stephanie LaCava...

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“I had a game where I liked to imagine what sort of pyjamas each passerby might wear. This came from a belief that the more I know about the inner lives of others, the more I might understand the world.” 0 likes
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