A complete re-imagining of Clarissa Explains it All as 20-something Clarissa tries to navigate the unemployment line, mompreneurs and the collision of two people in love.
She was a smart, snappy, light-hearted girl who knew it all at fourteen. Now a woman in her late twenties, her searching blue eyes are more serious, but mostly amused by the people around her. The gap-toothed smile that made her seem younger than she really was is gone, but she still lightens up the room. Her unpredictable wardrobe rocks just like when she was a kid, but her fashion sense has evolved and it makes men and women turn their heads.
After leaving high school early, Clarissa interned at the Daily Post while attending night school. At the ripe old age of twenty- two she had it made – her own journalism beat (fashion, gender politics and crime), an affordable apartment in FiDi and a livable wage. She was so totally ahead of the game. Ah, those were the days! All three of them. Remember the Stock Market Crash of 08? Remember when people actually bought newspapers?
All of Clarissa’s charming obsessions, charts, graphs, and superstitions have survived into adulthood, but they’ve evolved into an ever-greater need to claw the world back under control. Her mid-twenties crisis has left her with a whole set of things she can’t explain: an ex-boyfriend turned stalker, her parents’ divorce, a micro relationship with the cute coffee guy, java addiction, “To-Flue Glue,” and then there’s Sam. Where’s Sam anyway?
Things I Can't Explain is about knowing it all in your teens and then feeling like you know nothing in your twenties.
Mitchell Kriegman is the author of Being Audrey Hepburn, and an upcoming novel due out November 2015 called Things I Can’t Explain — a modern day sequel to his groundbreaking cult classic 90s Nickelodeon show, Clarissa Explains it All.
Kriegman created and won four Emmy’s for his work on other childrens’ classics such as Bear in the Big Blue House, Book of Pooh and It’s a Big Big World. He was the executive story editor of the original Ren and Stimpy. Rugrats, Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life. Besides writing original screenplays for Rogue, Universal, Disney, Columbia Pictures and others, his short stories have been published in The New Yorker, the National Lampoon, Glamour, New York Press and Harper’s Bazaar.
Before joining the team of SNL as a filmmaker, performer and writer, Mitchell began his career performing “An Evening of Stories and Tricks You Won’t See Anywhere” and other original performance art at the New York Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, Franklin Furnace and more. His video works are part of The Museum of Broadcasting, Whitney Museum, and London Institute among others.
I was pretty psyched to find out that the creator of Clarissa Explains it All had written a book about Clarissa as an adult, but sadly it did not live up to my fond memories of the show. Maybe it's my fault for expecting something great, or even good; I guess Clarissa was very much a kids' show, with a very pre-teen sense of humor, poking fun at a nerdy Dad-Joke dad, a lame (but loving & loved) tofu-obsessed mom, and a bratty little brother. But I thought that a grown-up Clarissa would be fun and cool...
Unfortunately, the book is as scattered and mis-matched as one of Clarissa's outfits. But whereas those were cool for being original and out-there, this is just confusing. First of all, the Clarissa of the book is maybe 24 or 25 years old, and still referencing the childhood we watched in the early '90s, putting her a solid decade outside of the timeline. I can't really fault the author for wanting to tell a story about a Clarissa just trying to make it on her own for the first time, and only now getting around to telling it, but it took me out of the story quite a few times. More egregious is the tone -- is this book pitched at the young girls who would aspire to grow into this version of Clarissa, or the fresh-out-of-college girls who would directly relate to the plot and themes, or the nearly-middle-aged girls who watched the TV show? The voice of the book seems to want to cater to all of them, which just didn't work for me. There was definitely a lot of fan-service to viewers of the show, but aside from that the writing was pitched toward a much younger audience.
And, yes, I only mentioned girls in the target audience. As a boy who loved Clarissa Explains it All, and who will generally shrug off the gender roles most pop culture is targeted toward, I didn't think this book wanted me to read it; I don't mind a female narrator gushing about clothes and boys if the writing is natural and engaging, but this felt like it was there because that's what girls are supposed to talk about. And I'll also gladly read material geared toward MG/YA audiences if it's well-written, but this had a strong air of being written by a middle-aged man for young girls, with all of the attendant tone-deafness you might expect. Again, I got none of that from the TV show -- whether it had to do with my age, Clarissa's age, or the presence of women on the writing staff, who knows. But trying to write in the slang of another generation, and spending an inordinate amount of time describing clothes, and just generally writing in that "can't you see how clever I'm being?" tone...ugh. I also need to mention the way-too-common tendency for Clarissa's narration to fall into long tangents, often to clumsily deliver backstory, and which you could try to defend as her being flighty and carefree and how-cute-that-she-tends-to-ramble, but it just took the story off the rails.
I wanted to like this -- I thought I would. I was happy to see some charts and little pictures sprinkled throughout, reminiscent of the animation on the TV show, but they just didn't translate to a novel; they interfered with the writing, rather than complementing it. If you're a big enough Clarissa fan -- and, I hate to say it, a girl into girl stuff -- maybe give it a try. Otherwise, save yourself the disappointment, and the pain of reading clunky writing.
Initial Impressions 9/17/15: Probably somewhere around 3.5 stars but rounding down because it just didn't quite do it for me. This is one of those cases where there was nothing specifically wrong with the book to lower a rating but it just wasn't quite what I hoped it would be. Clarissa Explains It All was one of my favorite TV shows of the 90s (naturally) and I was so excited to read about her new adult life but the book just didn't quite come across as Clarissa's voice. I think it's hard to read a book that was based off of a TV show instead of how we usually do it and go from book to silver screen. I already had a voice and a feeling in my head and that personality just didn't seem to come across in the book. It's also a totally different experience reading this narration versus watching it. Clarissa is known for her breaks to the camera to update the audience as the show is watching but when reading a book, that's kind of how it always is (depending on how the narration is set up). I think it would have felt more true to the show to make that more of a separate break some how... changing from past to present tense, blocking it off... I'm not exactly sure, but I think I just wanted it to feel more like the TV show. There's a lot of fun true-to-Clarissa stuff in there! We get to see her family (who is totally the same) and YES we do hear about Sam in this book, but I was upset that it wasn't a Sam-heavy romance throughout (I mean, come on. We all shipped it). It's also sort of weird to see Clarissa in an adult setting. The last I saw of her, she was still a young teen (on the show) and to have no transition from the lower side of young adult to adult is like... "AH, Clarissa is swearing! And talking about sex!" It was hard to jump from that age to this. (Would have LOVED some YA Clarissa) The tone was pretty true and consistent but even with the light-heartedness that you expect from Clarissa, the book seemed to sort of lack substance. I guess it's hard since I don't really expect the book to be deep and yet I still didn't connect with it or with the characters on a more complex level. It was nice that it wasn't heavy but it still felt like this book could have been so much more.
Full review originally posted HERE on The Book Addict's Guide 11/3/15: I’ve been working on my booktubing and decided to do a video review for THINGS I CAN’T EXPLAIN by Mitchell Kriegman! It’s a Clarissa Explains It All continuation in her new adult/adult life and… well, I’ll let the video do the talking! Check out my video review on YouTube! You can see the video review via the post on my blog or head over straight to YouTube to watch!
I'm a BIG fan of chick lit genre because I'm in love with a good, light hearted story with a touch of sweetness to it. A kin to sitting down to your favorite feel good sitcom or movie flick. Nothing too heavy. This story had some these elements in it but I also felt it was a tad bit forced. Trying too hard to be hip with certain abbreviated words and a language that just seemed too outdated and not realistic to be used in real conversations. The story didn't seem to flow nor did it keep me glued to its storyline. Yes, I laughed at parts of it and I thought the diagrams that were created were cute and unique but sometimes this is what also distracted me from its natural flow. I thought the author had lots of witty intelligent observations about life in the book that I thought were funny and smart but I found myself analyzing the main character. I didn't particularly like how she was so critical and unforgiving. Her double standards towards others and her shallowness. This I feel made it difficult for me to empathize and relate to her. I also felt how she talked, her comments on sex and at times her rough language didn't seem to coexist with her do-good, classy self. It just didn't mesh well enough for me to make her credible. She came across to me as trying too hard to be like a seasoned New Yorker. I didn't watch the Clarissa series when I was younger. Which is too bad. Maybe I would've liked the Younger version of Clarissa then this older version of Clarissa. Other then those few little upsets, the author does a great job tying the previous sitcom storyline with this new book. As newcomer, like myself, the reader shouldn't have any problem understanding what's going on. I'm planning to read the author other book called, Being Audrey Hepburn. I think this is Mitchell Kriegman's genius, his keen, smart and watchful observations of life where he shows us his intelligence and humor. This in my humble opinion is what he excels at and what I hope to see in his other book and future writings. *I received this book in a Good Reads Giveaway* Thank you for the opportunity to read it and to give my review.
Ah, the early 90s. I spent many an afternoon from age 7-10 or so watching Clarissa Darling and admiring her list-making abilities and computer gaming know-how. And who could forget the annoying Fergwad....and Sam and his ladder...and Elvis the alligator? So when I saw this follow-up to one of my childhood favorite shows, I had to snag it from the library. I didn't have super high expectations (what has Kriegman been doing since?) but sometimes you just need a little fluff reading. And fluffy, it was.
The book had its cute moments, and like the TV show it was often a bit over-the-top. But the way these things play out on television just doesn't necessarily work in "book world". Sure, there were some believable moments, but some entire plot lines (think tofu-glue empire and nerds in prison) just felt really contrived. And don't get me started on her annoying group of friends and their "abbrevs", or the excess of internet-lingo that will have the book feeling past-its-prime within the decade.
I'm not entirely sure who the audience was supposed to be. I mean - I presume the watchers of the show, (so - late 20s early 30s?) but at times it feels like it's written at a young adult/middle grade level - complete with random doodles. At other times, Clarissa says things that are downright R-rated, and Kriegman pulls out the "big words".
Yeah, it was cute-ish, but it just missed the mark a few too many times.
Growing up I never watched the TV series Clarissa Explains it All as I was too young as it aired between ages 4-7 years for me. I had heard about it though as when I got a bit older Melissa Joan Hart starred in Sabrina and there was lots of talk about her old series being re-run on TV. Readers, of my blog and reviews will know that one of my tropes is renditions and reimaginings. Things I Can't Explain is what Clarissa's life would look like if she was 20-30 years old. I loved this book as I could imagine myself being in Clarissa's spot. Clarissa had it all and then she lost it after The Daily Post was closed. One day she is getting coffee at her usual spot with the CCG ( Cute Coffee Guy) when her parents turn up from Ohio in the lobby of her old job. One thing leads to another and CCG aka Nick ends up playing her fake boyfriend for the day. From there, little white lies start to spill and pile up whereas the real truth is Clarissa's perfect life is spiraling out of control and she doesn't know what to do exactly. I did love how things no matter how terrible worked out for Clarissa and I found the character of Clarissa very relatable to myself. The other part I really loved is that Clarissa's background is Journalism and with the world of print dying and student loan debt, it is hard for communication major to find a job which Mitchell Kriegman showcased very well in the story. It has been a while since I've read a book with a female character that is easy to relate too and for me Clarissa was that. Things I Can't Explain also included throughout the book cute little drawings of diagrams and lists as Clarissa was a list-taker like myself and I loved this added addition to the story. I would recommend Things I Can't Explain by Mitchell Kriegman as a read to every college graduate who have finished their degree and finding it hard to transition into the real world as you too will relate to Clarissa.
I grew up in the 90s and absolutely couldn't wait for Clarissa Explains It All to come on. Clarissa Darling was the epitome of my projected image of the perfect teenager. The show encompassed a light, fun side that could only be accomplished by a network like Nickelodeon.
I said goodbye to her and the Darling family years ago… then this book happened. I was elated to continue on with her story. To get the same euphoric feel I felt when I first started watching her write her name backwards in the years of my youth. However, only one word comes to mind now that I've finished this book: DISAPPOINTMENT.
This book wasn't Clarissa Darling grown up! It was a nonchalant read about this and that. There was an actual story line but the story line did NOT fit a Clarissa Darling life. This book caters to the fantasies of people who wish they lived in New York (and what they imagine it to be like) - it lacked genuine aura. There's also a lot of abbreviated words (adorbs, whatevs, etc) - I don't feel like a grown up Clarissa would use such speak. It just felt … over done. Like Mitchell Kriegman was trying too hard to satisfy readers - and not just the typical Clarissa Darling fan…but ALL readers. Especially those of the Sex and the City persuasion. If you like drivel aimed towards 20-something wanna-be New Yorkers with cafe latte in hand and the ego of an overpaid supermodel, this is the book for you.
Kriegman did bring back the daydreams and diagrams that we grew to love Clarissa for but each one felt like he threw it in not for the sake of the story or for progression but for forced nostalgia. They felt fake and unnecessary… and diagrams from Clarissa should never feel unnecessary!
The one thing about this read that got on my nerves the most was how dysfunctional Clarissa's family was. Ferguson (her younger brother) was always up to no good, even in the television series, but come on… (spoiler alert!) would he really end up in prison?! That felt so crazy…too crazy. The Ferg wouldn't be THAT far off his rocker.
The plot was… well, there was really no plot. It did not feel like a sequel to the tv series. The writing was quick and conversational at times, but exaggerated and too slang-y at times. Clarissa came off completely entitled. The author felt the need to remind us several times over of how hot and intelligent she is - and yet all of her relationships seemed shallow. Character development was completely obsolete.
To put things abruptly: This book made it hard to care. At the end, I was just glad it was the end. I didn't care about the next step of her journey in New York. I did not care where each character ended up and why or how they got there. I just didn't care about anything once I finished. I hate that. If I read a good book, I want to be thinking about the ending and how I got to the ending for hours after I finish… even days after. I want my reads to feel like experiences: little adventures that I can place myself in.
"Things I Can't Explain" - more like, "Things I Shouldn't Explain Because This Stuff's Boring" would have been more appropriate.
When I first read the synopsis on things I Can't Explain I was excited. I like many others was a huge fan of Clarissa Explains It All on Nickelodeon. Granted I was in my teens then too, but the show did make me laugh and also a huge fan of Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina anyone?). So, when I saw this book, I immediately went into it with enthusiasm and couldn't help but picture Melissa as Clarissa in her twenties.
However, as I kept reading my enthusiasm level dropped. At times I found her pretentious, more so than when she was younger. I didn't really feel like she had grown as such and in honesty this book dragged for me. In fact, I admit to skimming a little which is never a good sign at all!
I'm afraid Things I Can't Explain just wasn't for me which I was really surprised about. I found the dialogue at times just too much. I think when you look back at Clarissa and remember her long winded monologues it worked, but it a book it just felt somewhat tedious.
I'm sure there will be many fans out there who love this book and rightfully so, but it wasn't for me at all, 3 stars.
I actually can’t make it through this book. I’m not sure if I can write a coherent critique so here are my main issues:
- The timeline is ridiculously off. Clarissa was 14 in 1991 when the show started yet somehow she is in her late 20s during the Great Recession?
- All the other characters are unrealistic. The plot is non-existent.
- This is one of the most egregious examples I’ve seen in a long time of a man trying to write in the voice of a woman. The part where she describes her great bod despite not ever working out made me want to barf.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is a bust. The girls who grew up with Clarissa are too old to relate to her as a twenty something. This author also made the same mistake Francine Pascal did with Sweet Valley High...we don't want our childhood favorites ruined. I don't want to read about her parents fighting or some psuedo feminist nonsense about her dad feeling emasculated because his wife earns more money. Nonsense! I will watch my DVDs of the show and DNF this.
Well, not entirely, but i couldn’t resist. The end of that book sucked. It all fell apart during the sex scene (i wont mention who with). It is obvious this story was written by a man from what he describes during that scene. Then i found none of the stories ended well. Kinda like Moffat writing Doctor Who. Which makes that line about Clarissa not understanding Doctor Who plots make more sense.
Don’t get me wrong. This book was cute. I wish it had been edited better, and i don’t just meant the crappy editing job on the audiobook. Themes important to the end are mentioned too late, and the chaos scene happens way too early with a drawn out resolution. I had such high hopes for this book. I totally get the meh reception.
This was an okay read. Being an official sequel book to the tv series Clarissa Explains It All, it was fun to revisit the characters with Clarissa’s usual brand of neuroticism. However, it was sort of underwhelming - like something I’ve already read. Nothing spectacular
It hurts my soul to rate this book as only 3 stars, but unfortunately that's what it is. I was, along with many other reviewers, a huge fan of Clarissa when I was 10 and she was 14. I looked up to her and envied her wardrobe. So how was it that I am now 30-something *cough cough* and yet she is only in her 20's? How is it that, even though she is older than me when the show started, she is now declaring herself a millennial when I'm too old for that? Somewhere in the Clarissa world, she paused time.
And what happened to Sam?? It felt like such a slap in the face to write the storyline the way he did and then not even resolve it. I felt like the author wrote about it, focused on everything else, got to the end and declared "oh shoot I need to say what happened to Sam...ummm...gee I just don't know." I'm sorry but I never liked this whole storyline - I won't say much more to not give it away but fans of the show won't be happy.
Then the references to Melissa Joan Hart's other TV shows was distracting. A cat with a magical portal for coming and going that she wanted to name Salem but instead named Elvis? AND WHAT HAPPENED TO ELVIS?! Another storyline that wasn't resolved! A plot line similar to her ABC Family movies? Calling a character Dr Hart? Thank you for taking me out of my headspace (!!) to remind me that she was only an actress.
Overall? Was there a plot? I'm still not sure what the main meat of the story was. And the monologues that Clarissa used to give to us didn't translate well on paper. Neither did the diagrams. I wonder if the ebook would be worse...
Fans of Clarissa? Hold back on your excitement to not have unrealistic expectations the way I did (didn't even know this was coming out - just happened to be browsing and saw it and then promptly freaked out when I realized that it was about Clarissa Darling!) If you don't know who Clarissa is enjoy the book, but know you've missed out on crazy early-90's fun!
My niece was a huge fan of Clarissa Explains it All, and of course we would watch the show together. This book allows fans to catch up and discover what this opinionated, intelligent and pretentious twenty-something year old is doing, thanks to Kriegman we are given a generous opportunity.
Clarissa is a likable young lady, most relate to, dealing with issues the best she can. In other words – she’s like you and me, causing appeal. Clarissa is all grown up, facing adult issues, her life is far from perfect but she keeps on and carries herself with grace, self-assured, poised. She struggles with career, family and romantic issues, everyday life. Kriegman does a wonderful job translating the television version of Clarissa to a realistic paper version of this quirky girl without missing a beat. Mature, determined and possessing even more savvy fashion style than before, fans will enjoy catching up with this humorous, adorable, happy gal as she stumbles with success in NYC.
I’m assuming there will be a sequel. Kriegman left loose ends with Clarissa and Sam, just enough to do another check in and see what direction Clarissa’s love life headed.
Great book leaving you laughing and in total understanding of what plausible scenarios Clarissa deals with along with trying to make heads or tails of, fan or not, you will be after reading this glimpse into charming Clarissa’s life.
This book gave me quite a bit of nostalgia. It was well-written. I like the kind of woman Clarissa grew into. She was strong and confident, and yet even she had her moments of despair, self-doubt, etc. I did cringe at some of the adult topics (I don't like reading that stuff, anyhow, and it was weird to hear Clarissa talking about it and swearing), but it wasn't the focus of the narrative. Anyhow, didn't mean to get all pensive and such. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading, eager to see what would happen to them next. Normally, that would earn the book five stars from me, but I just don't think I'd reread it, hence the four stars.
I’m a millennial and I grew up watching Clarissa on Nickelodeon. While reading this it was easy to picture the story happening within that world of soliloquies to camera, daydream sequences, and onscreen graphs and lists. I think the book works best if you imagine it as an extended episode of the tv show.
It does suffer from that weird syndrome characterized by the last couple seasons of Glee where every character either packs up and moves to NYC and continues to almost exclusively hang out with high school friends, or is constantly traveling to NYC from the Midwest like it’s just down the road.
My number one complaint (really the ONLY THING that bothered me): how could you let Clarissa and Sam get together and then not have them together at the end?? How could you dangle that in front of me and then so callously take it away?? Why did you have to dash my 90s girl dreams?? Other things are unrealistic, why can’t you let me have this one?? 😭💔
And yet despite my gripes, I still gave this book 4 stars. Why? I just enjoyed it! Even despite some of the head scratching. Was I seeing it all through rosy nostalgia glasses? Probably.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This book was a bit of a mess. There was no plot, and the romance had almost no build up. We had more time in flashbacks of a previous relationship, than we had current scenes with Clarissa and her love interest. The book had a tone similar to the original show, but the original show had the tone of a live action cartoon (which was awesome). That style might have worked for a kids show, but it just made the book a bit confusing. The fact that the book was in this bizarre cartoon/real word setting made it difficult for me to have any stake in Clarissa's problems. The dialogue for Clarissa's friends was near impossible to get through, and much of Clarissa's explaining actually made this 275 page book feel long and like a drag.
I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't. Things I Can't Explain read like a novel from the point of view of a Millennial written by someone of an older generation who regularly complains that Millennials are too obsessed with technology and should appreciate their elders more. On top of that, the character of Clarissa is insufferable (and nothing like what I remembered her to be!), the other characters aren't very well developed, and the plot was too meandering. I did want to like this book, but I don't think I enjoyed one thing about it.
I was really excited when I heard a "Clarissa all grown up" novel existed. I couldn't wait to read it but honestly, I feel very "meh" about it after finishing. I loved some aspects (the story of Janet Darling's hit business cracked me up) but found others bizarre and not worth the time they took up (particularly the way Clarissa's love life and the saga of Ferguson are written). It also felt they were trying way too hard to be hip (who says "my peeps" anymore?). This book might be a decent beach or pool read but don't go in with very high expectations.
Clarissa was my homegirl but this book didn't do it for me. Way too wacky and over the top, hated the way that Sam was brushed off and the whole Ferguson in jail thing with the casual racism was not cool.
Completely unimpressed with this one. Definitely not what I expected or wanted from a 20-something Clarissa. She sounds like a 16 year old still. It was annoying to read and I had to force myself to finish it.
Browsing through some of the more obscure channels on Sky recently, I came across some repeats of "Clarissa Explains It All" late at night. It was a pleasant nostalgia binge - I'm the same age(ish) as Melissa Joan Hart, and I always had such a crush on her! Clarissa was a guilty pleasure when it was first shown in the UK - I was aware it was a very cheesy show with a lot of flaws, but I could forgive them because she was a great character. A multi-faceted, intelligent, sharp, witty and non-stereotypical female lead was always really refreshing to see, and it's no surprise this show was always so popular and so fondly-remembered.
So...anyway...I did a bit of idle browsing after watching a couple of episodes, and discovered this novel. It didn't sound particularly appealing in terms of plot, but hey, grownup Clarissa! I was intrigued to see what the show's creator would do with her.
I ploughed through it fairly quickly and it had enjoyable moments, but generally this was very disappointing. There was quite a lot that didn't sit happily with me at all. I'll start with the two biggest issues, and then unpick some of the rest.
First, the timeline of this novel is all wrong. It's set in 2015 (the year it was published), and Clarissa is supposedly 26 years old. This would mean she was born in 1989, and..."Clarissa Explains It All" ran from 1991 to 1994. In most cases I can forgive timeline inconsistencies like this, as they're not generally that important, but in this case it felt like a big deal, because nothing screams "THIS IS THE NINETIES!!!!!" more than Clarissa. Everything about that show was quintessential nineties. The clothes, the hair, the pop-culture references, the technology, the attititudes, everything. Suddenly shifting Clarissa's life by around twelve years didn't sit right with me at all, and bugged me all the way through this. I can sort of understand why the author did it if he wanted to write about her as a twenty-something, but if he did that, he should have set the book about ten to fifteen years earlier. Also, a lot of Clarissa's fans will now be in their thirties or forties anyway, so why not write about her at that age? To put this in context, Melissa Joan Hart is now 43.
Second, it turns out that Clarissa has sex with Sam, and has a brief relationship with him. NOOOOOOOO!!!! I can't believe the author did that. The absolute best thing about the show was that Clarissa and Sam were close friends. This is about the only teen TV show that ever showed a close, platonic opposite-gender friendship where sex never got in the way. It was such a brilliant, refreshing thing to see, especially as a guy with a lot of close female friends. There are so many people who don't think it's possible, and it was hugely disappointing to see the author crap all over his great legacy here.
As for the rest...well, it's a shame it failed to do justice to such a strong and inspirational character. While in some ways it was good to see Clarissa struggle - she had hit hard times at work and in her personal life - I don't think any of her previous strength and ingenuity came out, and she seemed rather a sad shadow of her former self, pushed into rather a conventional mould. She sort-of picks herself up at the end, but it feels rather disappointingly like she needs a man to rescue her, so all of her previously decent feminist credentials seem to have disappeared.
The plot is also full of completely over-the-top random coincidences and excessively over-dramatised incidents. The TV show was as well, of course, but that's because it dealt with the lives of kids and teenagers, and that works alright in that kind of show. I think this book was trying far too hard to be funny in the same kind of way, even though it's obviously aimed at an adult audience. It felt quite jarring and didn't work. Neither did the excessive use of the TV-show-style captions and illustrations that litter the text. It's not the nineties any more.
The backstories of some of the other characters were utterly preposterous as well. I won't go into detail - other reviews here do, but you'll see for yourself.
This would probably be a one-star if it wasn't for some of Clarissa's old charm still showing in places, but all the things I liked about her pretty much seemed to be missing, and I couldn't get past the time-shift, which spoils my memories of a show that was set in a very specific time. Some things are best left in the past, I guess.
My very first thought was: "Oh man, more Millenial-pandering", but about halfway through that thought I interrupted myself with, "OMG YES PLEASE!"
I hate when I do that.
Marketing geniuses have figured out that when we Millenials DO have a little bit of disposable income, we are happy to throw it at nostalgia. And I resent that and I don't like being considered predictable...but I often end up buying the product, whatever it is, anyway, and loving it.
I REALLY hate when I do that.
This is Clarissa, though, and I guess I didn't realize what she means to me until I started reading this book. I quickly grabbed it when it came out--even pre-ordered it at Barnes and Noble--because Clarissa and I have a magical connection. Meaning that my name sounds similar, so sometimes I got called things like, "Clarissa Explains It All" in school. I was a know-it-all long before Hermione Granger won all the House points for Gryffindor, and to an elementary-schooler, loving being called Clarissa Explains It All equates to a meaningful bond of some kind.
Just bear with me here, I'm getting there.
That was the mid-90s, those halcyon days of Lisa Frank and The Macarena, before the creeping darkness of the invention of the tween market in order to milk me and my fellow newly-minted tweens of our allowance at Limited Too; before the creeping spectre of Leomania and fears of Y2K began to cloud our rosy childhood view of the world. Of course it all went worse than anyone could have imagined once the century changed, and hindsight makes those days of Beanie Babies and Nickelodeon at it's prime seem even more like a faded utopia, but regardless, we all have to admit, the 90s were pretty sweet, and the world was simple for us. And now it's...well, it's 2016. We've all seen the comics going around about leaving 2016 out of future discussions of history because it all just sucks so very much, we all know that, no need to explicate it here. Not only does the world completely suck for everyone, it really does seem to have it in for us Snake-People, and being an adult means saying, "Oh please, the world doesn't hate anyone or any group of people, that's ridiculous, right?" and then quickly changing our stream of thought to this awesome Buzzfeed article we read on why no one our age wants to have children. We know full well there's no actual target on our backs...but dang, it ain't easy either, with our severe underemployment--if we DO manage to have jobs in our fields--and our crippling student debt and the fact that our moms won't stop yelling at us that the dishes don't go in the dishwasher that way, how on earth have we gotten to be 20-some-odd years old without knowing how to load a dishwasher, the cups go in the BACK, and don't give me that look young lady/man/person.
So yeah, that's where it's at. That's where I was when I saw the description for this book. An old childhood guru, one who I was proud to be compared to for my knowledge of all things relevant, my supposed grokking of the world at a young age, also in her 20's, also struggling with underemployment, also realizing the world she had been prepared for and the world she got were two very different things, and no longer quite so sure of herself, but trying.
That's key, the trying. Clarissa now gets what Socrates was going on about, and self-diagnoses her neuroses in a delightfully believable way. The characterization of our heroine is on-point (mostly...read on...), as is her terror of underachievement and disappointing her parents, even when she has no say in these things, the stuff going on in her love life...I'll say it again: "yes, please". I might have actually put the book down for a while to savor it longer...seriously, and I mean, who does that? (Also that stupid not-Harry Potter book came out and I couldn't let anyone spoil me, so that got in the way, leading to several workroom discussions where I subjected my co-workers to whining that I wanted to finish Clarissa but had to finish this stupid I've-read-better-fanfic book first.)
While I enjoyed the character and her very human drama, I did think it was a little bit inconsistent that she at one point describes herself as probably obsessive-compulsive but the behavior only crops up twice in the book. I'm not going to start in about inaccurate portrayals of medical disorders, although I could, because that isn't my point; the point is this part of her character seems inconsistent. We don't see her needlessly organizing things anywhere else in the book, or self-doubting with such intensity in the scenes where it isn't part of the plot, so while I thought it was a good interpretation of where our heroine was likely to go, I just wanted to see it more consistently applied. Clarissa also has a tendency to have several pages of ruminating on various things around her or filling us in with backstory in the middle of action scenes, which happens for long enough and often enough that it throws off the momentum of a scene or chapter. It is in-character for her, of course, but I wished it were done in more moderation. I loved the interpersonal drama--which is weird for me, because normally I only care about that in stories where people can shapeshift or have to save the galaxy--although I did feel her gal-pals were a little underdeveloped. I'd have liked to see them play more of a role after the intro we're given to them, and to see them fleshed out more as characters, although I liked their presence and what the author was TRYING to do with them. I was, though, pretty engrossed in the Sam backstory, and was surprised to see that unresolved--intentionally, on Clarissa's part, because she's basically choosing not to resolve it, interestingly--but the ending of the book, between the pacing and the conclusion, felt very inauthentic. The ending is the reason I gave it four stars instead of five, because it was abrupt enough that I'm really feeling like there's a sequel in the works (and the way this is being marketed seems to leave that possibility open). If there are more installments, I'll snatch them right up--I even went and signed up for the author's mailing list, and again, who ever does that?--but I would have liked to see the pacing of the last couple chapters done more smoothly. That said, I am in fact eagerly awaiting news of any sequels we might get, and I did overall really enjoy the book.
So yeah, TL;DR, this was a book made for people like me, and it mostly did what it set out to do. The main flaws for me were consistency in characterization of the protagonist and some other characters, a tendency of the author's to break up scenes of action with lots of narrative of what's going through Clarissa's head, and the abruptness and conclusion with which the book ends. I think the solution to all of these is to write another book or two or three or however many I need to spend my adorable little income on. Having a fictional old friend who you looked up to admit that she's in the same disoriented boat as you is definitely pandering in this case, but it's done here with heart and effort. This book was both the pandering I need AND the pandering I deserve, and I'd happily throw my money at it again.
Like most people who read this book, I grew up obsessed with Clarissa. As a kid, I dressed like her and, as an adult, I adore my Clarissa DVD set. I was so excited to read this book and catch up with Clarissa as an adult, but it completely missed the mark.
First of all, when the show finished in 1994, Clarissa would've been about 17 years old. In 2015, the year this book was published, she would've been in her late 30s, not her late 20s as portrayed in the book. As someone who always looked up to Clarissa as a child, it was jarring to see her portrayed in modern times as someone younger than me. Honestly, this made me mad the entire time I was reading the book and I couldn't look past it. I'm all for a Clarissa in her 20s storyline, but at least get the timeline right.
I was also surprised that a book obviously geared at the nostalgia generation would alter everything that we know and love from the show. Zero people were asking for a Clarissa novel where her family has completely fallen apart, her life is in ruins, and her best friend (and a beloved character to boot) is completely MIA. At least give us SOMETHING to remind us of the 90s show we hold so dear! Aside from sharing the same names, I really couldn't recognize these characters as the ones I grew up loving.
On a positive note, I will say I enjoyed the small nods to the show with mentions of her hubcap collection, the video games she used to make, and even her ex-boyfriend Clifford. I also loved how Melissa Joan Hart references made it in as well - such as her old dentist being named Dr. Hart and her black cat potentially being named Salem or Sabrina.
Overall, this was an incredibly fluffy story - which is fine - but it did nothing to further the character of Clarissa. I can't imagine that after all these years of Clarissa being off the air this is the story Mitchell Kriegman has been dying to tell about how her life turned out. Change the names and this could've been any other generic contemporary story, and the absolute last word that should come to mind when talking about Clarissa Darling is generic.
Clarissa was my style idol and an overall inspiration as a kid, growing up with Nickelodeon shows. Anyone who loved this show has probably wondered where this character could be today. So, that’s quite a task to tackle for a story.
First, allow a bit of a change to the story. Because this is Clarissa in the modern day but she’s only 26. I could accept that storyline as it gives us a chance to catch up with her as she’s trying to navigate adult life for the first real time. I guess if we stuck with the real timeline, she’d probably be in her 40’s and married possibly with kids. You know what? I’d read that story too.
So, we get a chance to catch up with the characters. We see Clarissa as a very intelligent adult with trouble finding a great job in NYC as a writer, there’s Ferguson who has let his own ambition lead him into trouble and there’s Clarissa’s parents who might be divorcing.
I thought the author did a pretty successful job of bringing Clarissa back to life. She’s still smart, strong, spunky, unique and she still loves fashion. I like how the author stayed true to Clarissa’s particular style, I could absolutely believe that adult Clarissa would be shopping at vintage stores.
Going into a story like this, with a character you love, you have certain expectations or hopes. The big one? At least for me? Sam. For goodness sakes, either let them be together, let them have stayed the best of friends, or let them have dated but decided to stay friends. Instead, they fell madly in love with each other and then, I guess, drifted apart in a way that provided zero closure. I’m sorry coffee guy love interest but Clarissa appears to still be in love with Sam.
On another note, her cat just disappeared?
Clearly this needs a sequel. If the author is reading this, how about a second book where Sam and Clarissa’s cat both return?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I really enjoyed the story and the reader for the audiobook was quite good.
Unfortunately, the editor needed to take a few more passes. There are repeated lines all over the place and one instance where the reader apologizes that she needed to swallow before she started the next line.
Technical issues aside, I enjoyed this book. It doesn’t quite feel like Clarissa, but it was a believable direction for her to go with her life.
There was a lot of ridiculouslness, especially with her parents and her brother. They were probably the least believable part of the story.
The story follows Clarissa after she’s finished college and landed her dream job as a journalist... and then the newspaper promptly went out of business.
So we see Clarissa coping with unemployment, bad relationships, parents with too many of their own problems to listen to hers, imposter syndrome, and coping with trying to make and maintain friendships in adulthood.
There were several problems for me, but they didn’t ruin it. The romances mostly seemed pretty flat and the one sex scene pulled me completely out of the story because it read like it was written by a middle aged man, not a 20-something girl.
The ending fell flat for me. It was fine, but felt like it wrapped up two things very neatly and everything else very poorly. I would have preferred either a more sitcom-styled ending with a Clarissa style flair or an ending which had more realistic wrap-up that actually gave emotional resolution to several side stories.
If you liked Clarissa Explains It all, this book will be quite darling to you. If you haven’t seen the show or didn’t care for it, you can probably give it a miss.