After Clarissa describes the experience of visiting Ferguson in prison we finally get our first glimpse of the man. He's rocking a do rag and a gold cap. He talks like a stereotypical rapper (what's up with this book and giving people bad accents?) and he's actually adjusted well to the prison life. He's started up a dating service and bribes guards with his mom's tofu cookies. He also turns off his prison persona once Clarissa explains the problems he's created for his family.
Ferguson proceeds to spend two hours teaching Clarissa about finances and setting her up to write a great article.
Clarissa still can't figure out what angle she wants to write her article on so she takes a stroll through New York City for inspiration. She notices a do it yourself cafe and is inspired by the DIY movement that has sprung up both in person and online with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Then she runs into her ex boyfriend Norm.
The meat of this read through was the chapter with Ferguson which was annoying to read but did progress the story. I'm not sure how much I like the current Ferguson storyline, but I'm willing to ride this out and see where it goes.
Well, Chapter 11 is a very short chapter that establishes Dartmoor as our antagonist. He's the finance editor and doesn't like Clarissa because of her family name. Well... specifically her relation to her brother Ferguson, who finally gets discussed!
Chapter 12 spends time explaining what happened to Ferguson since we last saw him. He continued to be brilliant, got a full scholarship and was recruited by a Wall Street brokerage before he graduated. He was the youngest broker to rock a Bluetooth headset, dated models, and made his family proud. Then he Fergusoned it.
He lost seven million dollars in a day due to insider trading. This loss got him sentence to a rough “don't drop the soap” style maximum security prison because the hedge fund he worked for was a front for the Russian mob. He went to a more secure prison to keep the Russian mobsters out, not necessarily to keep Fergwad in.
This was a very, very interesting twist. Ferguson was the little brother we all loved to hate. He was obnoxious but maximum security prison is not where I thought he'd end up. Of course, I suspect there will be more to the story than was let on, but as the chapter ends Ferguson has spent 18 months behind bars.
YES! The return of the charts! Chapters 7-8 didn't have any fun charts or lists and almost immediately we are hit with a breakdown of coffee drinkers! I love it!
And then the book takes a bit of a turn. We get into a humorous but somewhat out of place discussion about the sex life of her friend and model Jody. Her friend has an accent and it's written out in the book and well... I'm not a fan. This was obviously setting up something later in the book, but it was pretty meh.
In Chapter 10, Clarissa is making her way to her interview with MT Wilkinson, a British woman whom she is attempting to get a digital journalist job with. Nunzegeek, where she is applying is a sort of Huffington Post/Daily Beast sort of financial website. Clarissa meets the stuck up financial editor and it seems like her interview is over since she doesn't know much about the federal reserve, but luckily she falls back on common sense and spins a pitch about discussing finances for those who don't have money instead of just for those who do. It was a fun chapter to read and I loved to see Clarissa turn a negative into a positive. Her quirky, positive outlook was always one of the best parts of the TV show and I was glad to see it shine here.
When I think back to Clarissa Explains It All The Darling's come to mind. For some reason, I sorta forget about Sam. But once I began this book, Sam came raging back into my mind and he's been there ever since. I guess, deep down, all us Clarissa fans just expected Sam and Clarissa to end up together. When I found out they weren't, something didn't feel right and I'm hoping by the end of this book it will.
This chapter starts off with Clarissa snagging a job interview and her joy gets her thinking about Sam. We learn that same is a Marine biologist who fell in love with surfing. He spends his time traveling the globe and is very much the Gen Xer of the TV show and not the millennial of this book. He doesn't do much with social media and still writes old fashioned letters. He apparently mails letters to Clarissa from whenever he's currently working every once in a while. It sounds like it's been a while since Clarissa has heard from him so she calls and leaves him a voicemail.
One of my concerns about reading this book is that it would be a bit “girly.” Don't get me wrong, I like a good chick flick and even a book, (I recently read and enjoyed Waiting for Tom Hanks) but there are just some topics that don't interest me and when Clarissa started in on her fashion muse in chapter eight my mind started wandering. I'm sure this would have been more interesting to some, but for me, I could have done without it.
*Side Note: I made the mistake of reading a short review of this book on a retro sitcom blog. I should have known better. This particular blogger loves to take 90's sitcoms and review them with and judge them by today's standards. It's easy to pick apart what was essentially throw away TV from thirty years ago when people had different beliefs, but that's an argument for another time.
This reviewer didn't like the book. Her single biggest issue was the lack of continuity with the time jump. If Clarissa aged along with the real world, she would not be just a few years out of college, but instead in her forties. This bothered the reviewer so much they couldn't enjoy the book. I'll admit, it took me by surprise, but I actually like it. I don't think there would be a huge market for a Clarissa book written from her point of view as a mom (although I would read it) and I think the author did a great job by making Clarissa young enough that her personality is that which we remember but in present day so she can drop mentions about Instagram and Facebook. *
Things I Can't Explain has gone full romantic comedy mode and I'm totally down for this. That's not something I ever thought I'd want in my life, but damn if I don't want a feature length romantic starring Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa.
It's a bit predictable and a little over the top, but so was the TV series and I'm down for that. In a world where everything is so terrible all the time, its nice to read a little fluff.
It wasn't too surprising to see that Clarissa still has feelings for Sam and that she is a bit conflicted since life hasn't really gone her way. I think the author did a great job at capturing the feeling of people from my generation once all the dust cleared and we realized we weren't all going to be movie stars.
If I have any critique, I wished they would have backed down on the barista being a total Adonis. His rock hard abs, firm jawline, “butt like Channing Tatum” seemed a bit too much on top of his Harley riding and guitar playing. Clarissa never struck me as being quite so superficial, so this seems a bit forced.
I gotta say, I didn't see the girlfriend twist coming through. I anticipated Sam showing up and complicating things further, but I thought it was a nice touch.
Clarissa's job searching commentary is some of my favorite so far. I loved how she described Craigslist as: “Please for the Love of God Hire Me.” I can relate to that so much!
The Sabrina/Salem mention was subtle and work really well.
The end of chapter six slowed to a slog, but at least the chapter ended with a little action to make me excited for what's to come.
So, I'm loving this book. I'm just in awe at how much I'm loving it.
Before I started these chapters, I was struggling through the first Firefly novelization, Big Damn Heroes and it wasn't going well. I was flustered, because I wasn't sure what I wanted to read next. I decided I'd go ahead and knock out these next two chapters and it was like a breath of fresh air. It truly let me know that I was wasting my time reading Big Damn Heroes when I could be reading something more enjoyable like Things I Can't Explain.
I wasn't sure if I was going to like Clarissa's parents showing up in New York, but the storyline was perfect. The improvised date, the fantastic chart of her past relationship with Norm, and even the disasterious ordering of prawn at dinner was all brilliant. Despite not having seen the show in many years, I was immediately able to recognize both Marshall and Janet's voice coming from the characters and it amazes me how well the author was able to capture their sense of humor and nuances.
It's also nice that we got to hear the backstory about what happened between her and Sam. It was probably my biggest question as soon as I started the book, so I'm glad it was addressed. I can't say I'm not a bit bummed it didn't work out, but I have a feeling Sam may be showing up in the future.
Back in the 90’s, one of my favorite TV shows was Clarissa Explains It All. Clarissa Explains It All was a show on Nickelodeon that straddled the line between being a children’s show and a show for teenagers. Thanks to great writing and an amazing performance by Melissa Joan Hart, Clarissa Explains It All was quirky, fun, and never talked down to its audience. It also had one of my favorite openings to any TV show ever.
A few years back, I was doing some research on Clarissa Explains It All and that’s when I learned about a failed pilot for a spin-off series on ABC that was made in 1995, shortly after the cancellation of Clarissa Explains It All. The idea for the pilot was that it would pick up after Clarissa moved to New York to become a journalist and would follow her attempt to make it in the Big Apple. Similar to the original show, the show was made to straddle the line between two demographics, this time the teenagers who watched the original show and young adults who might enjoy the slightly more mature storylines.
The pilot was not picked up, and for good reason: it wasn’t very good. You can see for yourself here as it’s been streaming on YouTube for years.
I liked the concept and I would have loved more Clarissa stories, but it just didn’t achieve what it set out to do. Luckily, a few years later, Melissa Joan Hart would find herself in another show that set out to reach the same audience and it was massively successful. That show would be Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Something else I learned during my deep dive of Clarissa Explains It All was that the creator of the show Mitchell Kriegman, wrote a follow up novel that catches up with Clarissa in her late twenties titled Things I Can’t Explain. It seemed so random and so unknown, I knew I had to read it. So I bought a copy, and it’s been sitting for years as I proceeded to read all sorts of other books and not it.
A few weeks back, my friend Michael wrote a review on his blog about Clarissa Now, the unsold pilot. I was thrilled to see his post on Clarissa, since I had never heard of anyone who even knew that the unsold pilot existed. We exchanged a few messages regarding the book, Things I Can’t Explain and decided to have a little online book club. This is the first post of the book club.
We agreed to read the first two chapters and just post our thoughts and commentary. Unless you are reading along, I’m sure some of the future posts will be incredibly dull and hard to relate to, but this seemed like a fun and easy way for us to interact and so here we are.
Chapters One and Two:
I haven't read anything about Things I Can't Explain since I first heard of it, so I went in completely open and with no expectations. I was surprised to find the novel taking place in Clarissa's late twenties and even more surprised to see it included Clarissa Now as canon! I had to stop reading and do an IMDB search to verify that the editor she wrote for was indeed named Hugh Hamilton and it really made me smile to see that much care and love be put into this novel. So far, it seems like a love letter to the fans.
I think it's great to have the book written in the first person and every line so far has seemed perfect for the character. I read it in Melissa Joan Hart's voice and it feels like a perfect extension of the show. I love how she hasn't lost her quirkiness and included lists and definitions of small observations in her life.
The Map of Coffee Comfort and the Micro Relationships List were two of the highlights for me.
I like how they are going with the fish out of water (small town Ohio girl in the Big City) story and I'm interesting in seeing how Clarissa navigates relationships at her current age. I'm also hoping for more random commentary on various things she encounters such as the subway in the first chapter.