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

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
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May 15, 09

Read in May, 2009

T.S. Spivet, an obsessive and nerdy 12-year-old cartographer who maps everything in his life and is too mature in the way of really smart kids, somehow manages to flatly and critically describe his surroundings and his family members, even while, almost as if he is unaware of it, he conveys an striking amount of compassion and love for his family. It's that subtle emotion - that humanity - that gives this book its charm, even as T.S. heads out on an inexplicable adventure that left me baffled as often as it left me wanting to jump on a train carrying Winnebagos (although I think I would have had more food with me, since I take a granola bar with me to the grocery store) and go on my own adventure.

Baffling and inexplicable because... well, I think you just have to read it to understand what I mean. This is not a book that can be easily summed up or described. It is far from perfect. It is both enchanting and disconcerting. It isn't tidy. It is often vague. The supporting characters, for all that they are thrown together in unique ways and are clearly supposed to be offbeat, often come across as so eccentric that they come full circle to stereotypical. And I was unsatisfied with the ending, which arrived abruptly and jarringly, and left too many questions unanswered.

But the book is filled with a spirit of discovery that makes even the strangest, the saddest, the most unsettling events that happen as T.S. makes his way through his story seem somehow magical. Add to that the illustrations - intriguing maps and diagrams and charts and little asides that add a final dimension of wonder - and this book, for all its flaws and strengths and humanness, is a true marvel.
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