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Some Things Are Better Left Unexplained

Clarissa Darling, star of Clarissa Explains it All, is grown up—and dealing with Real Life—in Mitchell Kriegman’s Things I Can’t Explain.

Some Things Are Better Left Unexplained

BOOK REPORT for Things I Can’t Explain by Mitchell Kriegman

Cover Story: Grass Nap
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Clarissa-Adjacent
Bonus Factor: Micro-Relationships
Anti-Bonus Factor: Loose Ends
Relationship Status: Good Luck

Cover Story: Grass Nap

Not to be confused with “dirt nap,” which has a very different connotation, a grass nap is just that—a nap on the grass (or patches of clover, in this case)—like what the girl on the cover is doing. She also looks enough like Clarissa Darling (if all blonde young women look like Clarissa Darling) to get the point across. If, you know, you missed the multiple mentions of the book’s connection with the TV show.

The Deal:

Clarissa Darling thought she knew it all when she was a teenager, but as life tends to get more complicated, or at least different, as one gets older, knowing everything at 14 isn’t the same as knowing anything at 20. Clarissa has to come to terms with this as she deals with unemployment, troubles at home, the perils of dating, and living on her own in New York City.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

I connected with Clarissa via Clarissa Explains It All when I was younger (or at least my nostalgia for those days tells me I did). But the older Clarissa is too far removed from that spunky teenager for me to feel a true connection. Reading about her dealing with troubles that many of us faced at her age (early 20s) was a little too “real life” for me, and the way she goes about things had me rolling my eyes. (Even though I’m sure I acted in similar ways when I was her age … which really wasn’t that long ago, you know, but I digress.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Things I Can’t Explain hovers on that fine line between Young Adult and New Adult, so the book does include a more “adult” scene (i.e., sexy times). But the scene isn’t all that swoony. Unfortunately, the other scenes in which Clarissa gets her romance on aren’t much better; even as Clarissa is thinking about how mind-blowing a kiss was, I was left with a feeling of “really?”

Talky Talk: Clarissa-Adjacent

I mentioned this above, but I’m pretty familiar with Clarissa Explains It All. Going into this book, I had both a sense of trepidation that the Clarissa in Things I Can’t Explain would be too different from the Clarissa of the TV series, and a sense of hope that she’d be familiar enough that I could jump right in as though we’d never been apart. Unfortunately, my experience reading this book was the former. There are occasional glimpses of the younger Clarissa, but not enough to really connect the book with the show.

Also, the story often feels forced. The characters and situations Mitchell Kriegman has crafted for the novel are somewhat flat and, to be totally honest, annoying. (One character speaks almost completely in her own made-up abbreviations, which even the other characters in the book have trouble understanding.) However, I could totally see the characters and situations in a sitcom; I might even like the ideas in this book better had they been done in that medium.

Bonus Factor: Micro-Relationships

Things I Can’t Explain features the occasional nod to the scenes in Clarissa Explains It All in which Clarissa would draw things on screen as she was explaining. (If you’ve seen the series, you know the scenes I’m referring to.) Of course, in the book, these scenes translate to illustrations and definitions that look they’ve been pulled straight from a dictionary. One of the best in the book is the explanation of “micro-relationships,” which I am very familiar with, but never put a name to before. Kriegman explains them like so:

micro-relationship (n.) the sense of being incidentally connected on a very small scale, 1968. micro mieaning “small,” com. form of Gk. mikros “small, little, petty, trivial, slight” (see mica) with relation + ship 1744, “sense of being related,” specifically of romantic or sexual relationships by 1944. micro + relation + ship interpersonal connections which develop in bustling metropolitan areas, as a result of frequent exposure 2007. a stranger who happens to appear in one’s sphere of experience on a regular basis and with whom it becomes necessary to interact usually in a positive manner. not to be confused with “meaningful relationship” or “unconditional love.”

These are the kind of relationships that we all create with strangers we see frequently, the people we give nicknames to because we’re not really ever able or willing to get to know them on a deeper level. I know you've done this too.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Loose Ends

I’m not entirely sure if this book is the start of a new series. The cover does say “A Clarissa Novel” and the Goodreads title is Things I Can’t Explain (Clarissa), but there’s no number associated with it. The book certainly leaves things open, not exactly in a cliffhanger way, but a way that definitely makes me think that there is more story to come.

Casting Call:

A slightly younger Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa

Even though she’s past her early 20s now, I couldn’t not cast MJH as Clarissa.

Relationship Status: Good Luck

Although we didn’t really connect, Book, I do wish you the best as you work toward figuring out this thing called Real Life. It can be tough, but I believe in you. Give me a call in a few years, and we can try this whole friendship thing again.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Thomas Dunne Books, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Things I Can’t Explain is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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