Things I Can’t Explain
by Mitchell Kriegman
Expected Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Length: 288 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Currently a standalone–but seems to have series potential
View at the Traffic light:
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.
Clarissa Explains It All was slightly before my time, but I grew up watching re-runs — or so my parents say. I was quite young when I watched them, so I don’t really remember anything about the show except that I watched it & loved it. I have a vague recollection of Clarissa Darling, and then, of course, Sam, but I couldn’t tell you any of the other characters or plot points. Nonetheless, I was super excited to hear about Things I Can’t Explain and set out to read it immediately. Things I Can’t Explain is a fun book that deals with a lot of what I wish New Adult books would deal with, but there was also something lacking.
At the start of the book, Clarissa is fairly recently jobless and boyfriend-less. Her once-amazing journalism internship-turned-job went the way of the dodo bird when the newspaper she worked at closed suddenly, leaving her unemployed. She’d been dating a New York native for awhile, but in the end her ex-boyfriend’s need to come up with “inventions” drove them apart(we get to see this character in the book, and good riddance, I say). When her parents surprise her in New York for a visit, Clarissa grabs the coffee cart guy to act as a fake boyfriend, but by the end of the evening is also nursing a very real crush on him.
For the most part, Things I Can’t Explain follows Clarissa through her day-to-day life. We follow her to job interviews, to reporting gigs, to girl’s night out, to dates. There are threads from the show that pop-up, but I don’t think you need to have seen the show to understand the book. Anything that’s a reference to the show is explained, and even though I barely remember anything about it, I found the book easy to follow.
There are a few different story lines: Clarissa’s family(including her brother, who is in prison for white collar crime), Clarissa’s romantic prospects or lack thereof, and Clarissa’s job. I definitely found some more enjoyable and better done than others. Clarissa’s career one rang especially true to me, and I loved how Clarissa how to expand from her traditional journalism role into new media and all that was discussed. The family story line was cringe-worthy awkward at times, but it wasn’t badly done — just gave me, as a reader, a strong case of secondhand embarrassment. And then there was the romance. . .
So, over the course of the novel, Clarissa has a few different romantic run-ins. There’s her ex-boyfriend, who stays firmly her ex despite attempts to win Clarissa back. Then there’s coffee cart guy(or cute coffee cart guy, as Clarissa calls him), who is the guy Clarissa grabs to be her fake boyfriend. Those story lines would be fine on their own, except that the Sam plot point continually hangs overhead. Sam’s not technically in the book, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a part of it. Clarissa explains what’s happened with Sam since the show ended and they grew up — mainly, he’s working overseas while her life is firmly in New York City, but there’s still some longing. I think I would have been much happier with how the romantic story line was left at the end of the book if that had been resolved in some way(unless it was intentionally left unsolved for a sequel, which I could easily see happening).
Other than that, there were parts of the novel I really liked (Clarissa’s charts and graphs! Those were perfect and I was always excited to come across a page with one), but it just didn’t wow me. As much as I enjoyed a look at an older Clarissa, I just can’t see myself returning to this one or see mega-fans of the show being completely happy with where the end of this book left Clarissa.
A fun look at an older Clarissa, but some story lines were more complete than others. I liked it, but in the end. . . I can’t quite place my fingers on it, but it didn’t exactly work for me. It felt like the book tried to get to the heart of what everyone loved about the show, but ended up striking a lung instead — so, so close, but not quite there. 3/5 cupcakes.