The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet
by Reif Larsen
T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old genius with a gift for cartography. He lives in Montana and spends his time on a ranch creating maps of everything around him; facial expressions, diagrams of insects, water drainage, etc. A misunderstandings leads to an open invitation to visit the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and he decides to embark on a cross-country journey by himself.
The book is almost impossible to categorize. It’s technically a graphic novel and the margins are filled with maps and notes. But it also includes much more text than many GNs and feels more like a novel. It’s a coming-of-age story and feels a bit like a young adult novel, but there is definitely some serious subject matter. I’m not a reader that needs everything I read to have a label, but when you’re trying to describe a book you realize that labels can be helpful.
T.S. has a hard time connecting with his rancher father and his scientist mother. They both love him, but don’t show affection in traditional ways. There is a side plot involving one of Spivet’s ancestors that I really loved. T.S. is reading about a fellow scientist in his family while traveling to D.C. and learning from the choices she made.
If graphic novels are already not your favorite thing I’m not sure this would be a good fit. The side notes and drawings can feel tedious at times. They were an interesting element, but were also a bit distracting sometimes.
Something happens about ¾ of the way through the book which changed things drastically for me. I felt like I lost some of my connection to the story and I began to doubt what was happening. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I just ignored the unbelievable elements and just went with it out.
BOTTOM LINE: A completely unique book, which is rare. Interesting characters and storytelling technique and in the end I was really glad I read it.
“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”
“Shelving is an intimate thing, like the fingerprint of a room.”
“How many snapshots in the world were actually just-after shots, the moment that elicited the shooter to press the button never captured; instead, the detritus just following, the laughter, the reaction, the ripples.”
p.s. I had no idea they made a movie of the book! It looks fantastic. You can check out the trailer here.