Kara Gnodde’s debut novel The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything has been compared to Australian bestseller, The Rosie Project. I can see the similarities, but the starkest comparison to my mind is TV’s The Big Bang Theory. Imagine if Sheldon Cooper was looked after by his sister instead of by Leonard Hofstader. Now imagine him devising an experiment to help that sister date. The problem is that neither Sheldon Cooper, nor Art Brotherton are a particularly nuanced portrayal of a neuro-divergent protagonist. At times, this lack of depth got in the way of what would have otherwise been a quite heartwarming portrayal of a complicated sister and brother dynamic.
Art Brotherton is a mathematical genius, working on solving one of the world’s most difficult equations. His younger sister, Naomi (called Mimi for most of the book), is embarking on a new career as a foley artist after a few false starts. After the (frankly, horrific) death of both of their parents, Mimi has sacrificed a ‘normal’ adult life to take care of her genius brother.
She has always felt second best. But now, she wants something for herself- a relationship. Art reluctantly agrees, but only if Mimi will follow his instructions and treat the whole thing as a test of Art’s theory that finding love on a dating app can be predicted with a formula. If only to get her brother on board with the idea, Mimi agrees. And then, she meets Frank.
The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything is an extremely readable, if slightly light and fluffy read about two siblings who each need to leave the nest in order to find themselves as adults. The book’s plot, while predictable, moves along at a fast pace, and Mimi and Frank’s relationship is heartwarming for the most part.
However, I couldn’t help but feel that the book didn’t live up to its potential. Art’s growing distress and paranoia – presumably a symptom of his having a form of ASD, though it’s never spelled out – is played for comic relief. The last minute reveal of his sexuality also felt unnecessary. As a light romance, I think this novel worked but it had too much going on for the resolution to feel anything other than chaotic.
Read this one if you still love The Big Bang Theory.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Kara Gnodde’s The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything is available now from Mantle Books (Macmillan Australia). Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.