Matt's Reviews > The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
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M 50x66
's review
Jun 01, 2012

liked it
Read in May, 2012

This is a really well-designed book-- with lots of sidebars etc that are all deployed in clever and fun visual ways to develop and illustrate the story of 12 year old prodigy mapmaker TS Spivet. It's one of those books that you look at and wonder about and ooh over. Unfortunately, I felt the reading experience not as satisfying as the visual experience.

It starts out strong-- isolated genius boy who feels cut off from his family (brusque rancher dad and distracted scientist mom) and who is suffering from the after effects of a family tragedy, the death of his brother and best friend. An offer to travel to DC and visit the Smithsonian as a special guest sets our narrator off on a cross-country jaunt, and most of that works pretty well, though at the end, with the violent confrontation that closes that section of the story, things begin to go awry.

I thought the last section, about the DC leg of the adventure, went, well, off the rails. There was too much back-and-forth, too much cynicism about the Smithsonian's need to make money off publicity, too much very broad media satire and not nearly enough consequence.... many ideas are introduced (how significant was TS role in his brother's demise foe example? what is his mother's relationship to science? to terry? what about the reverend? what about the wormholes?) but not really explored or resolved. The last third of the book feels very ragged, as if there's a self-conscious attempt to not write a book with a pat arc, but the results feels too dogged by the shadow of other similar, YA-type books this book wants to be different from than making a stand on its own merits.

It's too bad, because there are things I really like here-- I felt like the embedded story of TS ancestor worked really well, and I appreciated the way it gave TS and Larsen a chance to think about storytelling and science, and the design stuff was very very appealing. But in the end, I think it kind of fell apart.

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