“The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet” explodes the traditional genres of fiction and creates its own. T.S. narrates the story as a precocious 12 year old cartographer who wins the Baird Award from the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian is quite unaware that the individual they have selected is only 12 years old and T.S. decides to make the trip to Washington D.C. to accept his award in person and make a speech. As you can imagine, traveling to DC as a 12 year old is quite the adventure!
Despite the narrator being 12, this book is not a children’s book at all due to more mature themes that run through the book. One constant thought running through T.S.’s mind is that his brother recently died and it was his fault. Also running through the book is a constant desire to connect with his family as T.S. feels he doesn’t quite belong with those around him. It’s hard to prove my point that this book is not for young children without giving away more of the story but older teens and adults would quite enjoy it.
One of the features that sets this book apart is the attention to detail by the author Reif Larsen. Throughout the book are sketches and maps developed by the fictional T.S. as he attempts to explore and make himself at home in the world around him. He maps everything- even things one would consider impossible to map. It’s a treat to read his thoughts in the margins as you read through the book and I appreciate the extra layer it adds to the story.
I really enjoyed this book for two main reasons despite the plot being a bit slow in the middle of the story. The first reason I loved this book was the voice of the main character. Although I am not near as quirky as he nor as precocious, I frequently am curious about things no one else seems to care about and enjoyed the way he thought about the world around him. Hearing his thoughts throughout the book was quite entertaining. The second reason I enjoyed this book is due to how difficult it is to fit this book into a single genre. It’s a YA or adult book but the narrator is a child. The drawings, graphs, and charts throughout the book also add a graphic novel sort of layer to the story. I read constantly and adore books that don’t fit neatly into the categories we typically give for books. Overall, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and purchased it (.42 for hardcover on Amazon) for my personal collection!