*I received this novel as a digital ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review*
At 14, Clarissa explained it all: life, family, school, boys…She had an answer for everything. She had a reptilian pet named Elvis, a super cute best friend, Sam, who climbed into her bedroom via a ladder, and her very own TV show. We loved her and knew that if there was anything about life that we didn’t understand, we could simply turn on Nickelodeon and Clarissa could explain it to us using her trusty dry-erase board and lovably snarky attitude.
Now in her late 20’s and living in New York City, Clarissa is finding that she doesn’t have an explanation for everything. Her parents are separated, Sam is MIA, her love life has hit rock bottom, and the recession has left her unemployed. Things are finally starting to look up when she strikes up a conversation with CCG (cute coffee guy), who she’s been drooling over for months. But, when her parents come for a surprise visit, she spills her coffee (which is the ultimate bad luck omen) and Clarissa’s life turns into a web of lies that begins to implode one strand at a time.When I first heard about this book, the 90’s kid in me literally squealed from joy. For somebody who grew up on 90’s Nick and is a faithful viewer of Girl Meets World (if you don’t know about this, shame on you), a literary Clarissa reboot is the ultimate nirvana. The fact that it was written by the creator of Clarissa Explains It All was simply the icing on an already perfect cake. I was definitely not disappointed. Like the show, this novel was narrated by Clarissa in her trade-mark sarcastic and snarky voice. It has all the things we would expect, complete with her quirky fashion sense and handy dandy doodles for life. She even has a pet, albeit of the black feline variety, named Elvis.
Mitchell Kriegman did a great job of explaining (no pun intended) what transpired after we last saw Clarissa, up to and including the destiny of her friendship with Sam. We are also introduced to an entirely new cast of characters, most notably her best friend Jody, and her new love interest, Nick. Jody is a model with an unfortunate habit of falling out of bed in the middle of….bed things… and is always speaking in abbreviations, most of which have to be translated to be understood. Nick, in addition to being the “CCG”, runs an upstart record label and drives a Harley. What’s not to love?
This novel is a very real depiction of what it’s like for many of us in our *cough* late *cough* 20’s. You feel like you should have it all together, but every time you turn around, you feel like you’re stepping backwards. Clarissa feels this pain acutely and goes at it with a panache and vocabulary that many of us would envy.
I really loved this novel, but there is one part that really just irked me. Nick. I didn’t like him. Sure, he’s cute and all that, but he had some personality deficiencies that just irritated the daylights out of me. I don’t do well with wishy-washy men. Without giving anything away, this guy shouldn’t have been nicknamed “CCG”. He should have been “FMG”, flake master general. Mitchell Kriegman goes to great lengths in detailing what happened to Clarissa and Sam between the show and the book, and left us with a major WHAT? at the end. I was thoroughly unsatisfied with how Clarissa’s whole love life played out in Things I Can’t Explain and have one burning question. “What about SAM?!”
As somebody who has seen every episode of Clarissa Explains It All several times over, I had a unique and large appreciation for this novel. I’m not sure that someone who hasn’t seen the show would enjoy it, as there are a lot of things that are quirky and weird that aren’t fully explained (ie: Fergwad). I think most of this, however, can be overcome to an extent that would make this novel enjoyable to almost any reader, especially one who is struggling through the doldrums of being 20 something.
The tagline for Things I Can’t Explain is “A Clarissa Novel”. These leads me to the belief and hope that there will, in fact, be more to come. So, the book gets 4 stars from me because of the nostalgia, my love for the characters, and the hope that the one part of this novel that left me grasping for answers will be resolved in future tomes.