Physics, Mix Tapes & Shaman Pandas: ‘The Theory Of Everything’ by Kari Luna

No matter how great your life is, it can still get a little boring sometimes. Wake up, go to work, eat too many of the donuts someone left in the office breakroom…you know, the regular. I love just about every second of my life, but even I can’t ignore the fact that at no point during the day does a marching band full of pandas show up to entertain and advise me.

In The Theory of Everything, that’s exactly what happens to Sophie Sophia, a 14 year old girl who moves to Havencrest, Illinois with her mom after her dad disappears. While she’s dealing with normal new-kid-at-school stuff, like fitting in and finding classes and making friends, she’s also dealing with not quite as normal stuff. When Sophie has what she refers to as “episodes,” she sees all sorts of things that other people don’t, like Robert Smith (high school Kerry would have dropped dead from excitement), singing lunch ladies and the aforementioned pandas. Not only does Sophie see musically talented pandas, but one of them is actually her shaman panda. We should all be so lucky.

But, as you might imagine, these episodes tend to get Sophie in trouble. She feels like she has to keep them a secret from everyone in her life, even her physics-genius-BFF Finny and her mom. Sophie’s episodes connect her to her dad, who had episodes of his own before he went missing. Eventually Sophie decides to try to find her dad, and the resulting journey forces her to realize a lot of things about her friendships, her family and herself.

So you guys know I love YA romances because I talk about them, like, all the time. The Theory of Everything doesn’t really involve too much romantic love (there is some, though! Yay!), but that’s because it’s about every kind of love–the love Sophie has for Finny, her mother, her father and (most importantly) herself. In an interview on Bitch Magazine’s website, Kari says, “The YA market is flooded with love clichés. There are a lot of good writers writing in this genre, but there are a lot of: girl meets boy, does boy like me? There are very few stories that revolve around: Do I like myself? I’ve always been drawn toward books where the girl does something. She makes something of herself. She’s not just interested in boys. I don’t say this egotistically, but I wish that somebody had written this book when I was young.” And then she goes on to talk about Judy Blume and Maud Hart Lovelace which is obviously awesome.

Sophie Sophia is the kind of girl who does something, who goes on adventures and gets into trouble and takes chances. And even though this book is fun, funny and exciting, it also delves into some pretty deep emotions. If you’re interested in fun, fast-paced, sweet books with some family drama and a hint of magic, you’ll love The Theory of Everything.


-Guys, have you looked at that cover? I get so excited when I come across a YA cover that looks totally different from everything I’ve seen before, and I’ve definitely never seen a gorgeous, brightly colored cover that features pandas.

-The music! As someone who was obsessed with making mix CDs in high school (there were no iPods then! I had to walk uphill both ways to school! I AM SO OLD!), I appreciate Sophie’s love of the mix tape. She loves the best 80s music, like The Smiths, The Cure and New Order.

-How many YA books have you read that deal with physics? Scratch that…how many books have you read period that deal with physics? If you’re me, the answer is very few (if you’re a physicist, that number is probably higher). That’s why it’s so awesome and unusual that TTOE has multiple physics obsessed characters and deals with string theory and Einstein. Nonscience-y people (like myself) can definitely learn something! Maybe in her next book Kari Luna can tackle chemistry or calculus or something so I can keep learning while still reading about pandas and music.

-In an interview with Pengiun Teen, Kari Luna talks about her writing rituals and the best concert she’s been to. She also tells us about her office, and now I’m obsessed. Listen to this: “I write in what I call The Office Aquatic. I painted the entire room aqua – even the ceiling – so it would feel like I was writing underwater.” Seriously, how fantastic does that sound?

What about you guys? Have you read The Theory of Everything? Are you physics aficianados? Would you like to have a shaman panda? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.