cover image The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

J.J. Johnson. Peachtree, $16.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-56145-623-9

Johnson (This Girl Is Different) takes an up-close look at the enormous impact of a best friend’s death in a story about a girl’s struggle to make sense of the senseless. Fifteen-year-old Sarah has been acting like a different person ever since she witnessed the gruesome accident that killed her best friend, Jamie. Sarah’s grades are plunging, her sarcastic attitude is putting her family on edge, and she can’t escape the feeling that life is random and meaningless. Sarah’s turning point comes after she meets middle-aged Roy, who owns a Christmas tree farm where Sarah begins to work. Readers will easily relate to Sarah’s use of cynicism as a defense mechanism—her sharp-witted voice sets the tone for a story that’s truly tragicomic. Equally entertaining are the hand-drawn graphs and diagrams that appear throughout (texts, stern lectures, tense silence, and breakfast constitute the bulk of a pie chart about Sarah’s communication with her mother). The changes within Sarah are real and moving, and the open ending underscores the idea that although death may be certain, life is full of surprises. Ages 12–16. (Oct.)