Book Review: The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

Posted 08/15/2013 by alicemarvels in Contemporary
The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna




Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: July 11, 2013 by Philomel


Sophie Sophia rocks; her best friend Finny rocks harder!; shaman pandas; absurdist elements make an emotional story fun and endlessly interesting


would have liked a bit more closure at the end

String theory + shaman pandas + adorable clothes + lovable characters + amazing tunes. Need I say more?

What a fun, entertaining read The Theory of Everything is! When I first read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it based on the mention of shaman pandas and string theory and a comparison to Going Bovine, one of my favorite absurdist YA stories. (Spoiler alert – that comparison is spot-freaking-on). I would also put The Theory of Everything in the excellent company of Ned Vizzini’s The Other Normals and A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants. All of these books manage to mix absurd fantastical elements with a truly heartfelt (and at times heartbreaking) emotional story, and somehow, in spite of rather serious story bones, they all turn into such a fun rides.

There’s a huge emphasis on lists in the book, (main character Sophie Sophia even shared one with us for her blog tour), and we love doing list reviews, so here are…..



Sophie Sophia


I completely hate using the word manic pixie dream girl because it’s full of problems, but I will say main character Sophie Sophia marches to the beat of her own drummer (sometimes it’s a panda drummer), and she kind of sucks you into marching along with her. It’s impossible not to like her—she is so earnest about finding her father and overcoming her episodes, some of which are spectacularly embarrassing and public.

She sews artsy pockets into her vintage skirts so she has a place for her episode “souvenirs,” and she listens to a walkman and has great taste in 80’s music. Her episodes are a bit frightening, sure, but they’re also immensely interesting. I would have SO wanted to be friends with Sophie in high school (and I would have frequently raided her closet….and her mix tape collection).


80’s Music


There is so much fantastic music in this book, it’s insane. I’m a huge fan of 80’s music, and I love that Sophie and her father have a connection through music that endures beyond their living in the same city. It’s charming and sweet and full of fabulous nostalgia.

By the way, head over to Kari’s Spotify list if you want to jam out to an awesome 80’s playlist from the book.


BFF Hall of Famer


Where can I find my own Finny? I need a super stylish physics-obsessed bestie who always knows when something is wrong with me and who will be there to soothe my emotional wounds with chocolate. The kind of guy who will always compliment my outfit and be ready and willing to hop a train to NYC at a moment’s notice. Plus he will scope out cute guys for me and possibly also hook me up with them. FINNY! You rock.




I am a sucker for absurdity in fiction, and if an author can come up with a reason, a really good one, for shaman pandas, panda marching bands, flying books and trips to eighties Cure concerts, well, I’m going to love them forever.


Madness or Brilliance?


I love that this book tackles mental illness as it relates to genius and scientific breakthroughs. It truly does take someone who sees completely outside the box, like Sophie and her father do, to imagine the world differently, and perhaps discover something new about the human experience. Whether these episodes are all in Sophie and her father’s minds and the product of madness or whether they’re experiencing a new scientific frontier is never really totally clear. We know what they think is going on, but from an outside perspective, a more skeptical answer fits too.

Throughout the book, as we get more of Sophie’s memories of her brilliant but manic father, we begin to see the perfect image Sophie has of her absentee dad dissolve into something that is rather sad. It’s so easy for Sophie to blame the stable parent, the one who stuck around, for everything. But in this case I was SO on Sophie’s mom’s side. It took me several chapters to get there, but I thought she did the right thing.


Minor Quibble:

The only thing that kept The Theory of Everything  from being a total slam dunk was that I wanted a lot more resolution with Sophie and her father. I had several ongoing theories about where he was and what was happening with him, and none of them totally panned out. It was a bit of a let down to not know more. Also the more cynical part of me that wonders if Sophie is really going to be ok in the future, because the revelations we get are not a cure-all.

Though I did want more, I suppose I respect the ending, because it’s realistic and still ambiguous enough that I can still chalk this up to the mysteries of science and/or mental illness.



The Theory of Everything is a book for fans of absurdism, charming, lovable characters, and believers of impossible feats of physics and the imagination. It’s a warm-hearted, funny ride you won’t regret taking.


Read an excerpt here.
Watch the Trailer:



    It’s so funny you reviewed this today. I JUST (literally, just got back) from the library where I picked it up. I wasn’t sure I would even be able to read it, I mean the TBR is HUGE, but I couldn’t resist and figured maybe I could fit it in as a ‘pick off my shelf’ book.
    I’m not always a fan of absurdity in books. Going Bovine didn’t work for me when I read it, but my taste has changed since I read it a few years ago. I know I’m very curious about this one and your review has me thinking I will try my very hardest to read it before it’s due back at the library.


    I’ve been waiting to read your review of this book before deciding to get a copy. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this, Lauren.
    It sounds like this is a book that I’m going to like.
    Sophie sounds like an interesting and complex character that I would also find endearing. And the best friend! I love it when best friends are portrayed as being helpful, supportive and funny. I already like Finn from your review.
    And a panda marching band? OK. You’ve convinced me.
    It’s a shame about not getting closure regarding her father though. I would have liked to learn more about him too.
    Anyways, lovely review, Lauren! 🙂


    This sounds like an amazing summer read. I really love the sound of the MC as she sounds so good and the pandas too. I hope I’ll give this one a try. Great review 🙂


    Sophie sounds AWESOME! I liked after reading your list before, and I like her even more now. I love a girl that marches to her own drummer, I have a feeling she’ll just make me smile. Finny sounds brilliant as well, and despite your minor issue with the lack of resolution with her father, this books sounds pretty fantastic. Loved the list format of the review!


    Sophia sounds great, but I am sad to hear the ending doesn’t have enough closrure


    Oh sounds great! However, I would be with you and want to know more.

    Great pics to go with it, but the panda bear costumes sort of freak me out. LOL


    I hate to admit this sometimes but the 80’s really did have it going on LOL!
    How can you resist all the great music and movies?

    I have heard some pretty great things about this one and I know now it will be a must read for me.
    Fantastic review!!


    This sounds wonderful despite not enough of a resolution between Sophia and her Dad..but gosh there are Panda’s daughters would love this book and I just love the sound of Sophia 🙂


    Lol, I love that cover! Haha, how could one say no to that


    OMG. Yes. YES!! I want this book right this very second. *searches for Kindle* If the comparison of it to Going Bovine is spot-on, I’m totally in. I love the sound of this, love the 80’s music, love quirky characters… *shakes fist* Darn you for adding a book I have to read NOW to my pile! *hugs*


    She listens to an 80s walkman? *nostalgia* I like her already!

    Ducky!!!! 🙂 Sorry couldn’t help myself.


    Awh, this sounds so cute! I am so excited for this book now. Love the gifs, and the characters sound amazing. I do tend to like my endings wrapped up in a neat bow but maybe the lack of closure is necessary?


    This is the best review. And this book totally includes all the things I love… I do believe you have successfully convinced me to check this one out. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂


    Ahh. I think I would love this. You had this up awhile back with a guest post right? I love all things eighties and characters that beat to their own drum are always favorites. I can’t wait to check this out!


    80s music and string theory? It sounds like this book was made for me! I’m also really curious about this Going Bovine comparison. I was gifted that book recently and should be reading it soon. It’ll be interesting to compare. Although you wanted more resolution at the end, I’m glad you really enjoyed this book overall. Fantastic review! 🙂


    I feel like this is the type of book that I would either connect into and LOVE or not get. I’m really hoping it’s the former. That aspect of it reminds me a bit of WILD AWAKE, which I also totally got and loved. I’m quite interested in books that explore mental illness from the inside, and this one sounds like it does that well. I think genius is something that regularly goes hand in had with it as well. Plus I pretty much loved this sentence: “I am a sucker for absurdity in fiction, and if an author can come up with a reason, a really good one, for shaman pandas, panda marching bands, flying books and trips to eighties Cure concerts, well, I’m going to love them forever.” All that with an awesome best friend, makes me want to go out and find the book NOW. Great review!

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