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The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

by Kari Luna

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One part Libba Bray's Going Bovine, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world.

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’


One part Libba Bray's Going Bovine, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world.

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s Physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love.

Perfect for fans of Going Bovine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Probability of Miracles.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—In this whimsical exploration of love and physics, achingly fantastic and symbolic visions seem to beset 14-year-old Sophie Sophia at the worst possible moments. Her real world-a new suburb in contemporary Illinois-is periodically overlaid with what might be visits to other dimensions. These episodes combine zany elements such as Sophie's favorite '80s' musicians with giant pandas, candy, and umbrellas. With a new best friend-a gay boy named Finny-and a giant panda shaman named Walt to serve as guides, Sophie returns to New York City to ask her estranged father for answers. This quirky adventure is a more accessible piece of speculative fiction than the work of Libba Bray and William Sleator. The book starts off fun and exciting with descriptions of Sophie's innovative clothing and intensely delightful episodes. However, around three quarters of the way through, it slows down when entering the resolution phase, unable to match the intrigue of the initial conflict. The sprightly dialogue and entertaining descriptions span the length of the story but don't intensify toward the end as expected. There are also some minor issues with character development as many of the relationships change and yet Sophie is the only truly dynamic one, forced to evolve by the plot elements. With some scientific content, the explanations are kept simple, perhaps lacking some of the authenticity of a more rigorous investigation of the theories the book builds upon. In the end, The Theory of Everything is a fun read with a pleasant focus on love that is heartily entertaining, even if not terribly impressive.—Erin Reilly-Sanders, Ohio State University, Columbus

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
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File size:
996 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The Theory of Everything

Kari Luna

Philomel Books

An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Once I saw a guy’s heart roll right off his sleeve. Mom and I were sitting in a booth at Sal’s sharing a sausage calzone when I saw it—a big red heart sitting on the outside of his arm instead of the middle of his chest where it belonged. When Mom left for the bathroom, I saw it move, slowly down his biceps until it got to the elbow, rolled off and landed on the floor with a thud. Right next to his bright green sneaker.

The heart stood still. The guy twirled spaghetti on a fork with one hand and gestured excitedly to his date with the other. And she just sat there, sipping soda through a straw and looking totally uninterested in whatever he was saying, which was too bad. Considering the heart and all, it was probably important.

“Cut it out,” Mom said, sliding back into the booth. She had a smear of red-orange lipstick on her teeth. “How would you like to be on a date and have some kid look you over?”

“I’m too young to date,” I said, staring at the floor where the heart had been. “And you might want to blot.”

Normally I would have been mortified by her lack of grooming skills, but I had bigger things to worry about. Things like seeing something that wasn’t there. Just like Dad.

“I know you miss New York,” Mom said, leaving her lip print on a white paper napkin. “But San Francisco is the New York of the West, remember?”

It wasn’t the New York of the West because people walked too slowly, ate burritos the size of their faces and rode trollies, but whatever. I was less interested in our most recent move and more into the fact that I was maybe, possibly turning into my father.

“When did Dad first see something?” I asked, smearing sauce around the plate with my fork. Wondering if he was twelve like I was.

“You know we don’t talk about your father,” she said, tapping her nails against the laminate. Her hands hadn’t stopped moving since Dad left. “Let’s get out of here.”

She grabbed her coat, slid out of the booth and forged ahead, heels clacking. I lagged behind her until I got to the heart guy’s table, where I froze, staring at the heart, which was now back where it belonged: next to the I and above the NY on his white tourist T-shirt.

“You’ll have to excuse my daughter,” Mom said, pulling me away with one hand and pointing at their cheesecake with the other. “She’s just mad we didn’t order dessert.”

I was mad I saw something no one else did. But more than that, I was mad Dad wasn’t there to explain it to me.

The front door chimed as she held it open.

“Come on,” Mom said. “I’d like to get home before Christmas.”

And I’d like to go back to New York, back to when Dad was around, but I doubted either of those things were going to happen.

“Sophie Sophia!” she said, waving me toward the door. Her breath froze in little clouds before her.

“Coming,” I said, tightening my black-and-white striped scarf around me. I knew I’d never tell her what happened. But I wished—secretly and desperately—that it would happen again.

Meet the Author

Kari Luna (www.kariluna.com) writes stories, teaches yoga and eats apricots. She also covets cashmere sweaters, collects toys from the sixties and thinks soul music is the cure for everything. She lives in Portland, Oregon.  You can visit the fictional Sophie Sophia, read her blog, and download mixtapes at www.thetheoryofeverythingbook.com.

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