When I last wrote about What Happened to Sophie Wilder, I talked about how, despite some superficial trappings, it wasn’t a very conventional contemporary novel. That is to say, though it seemed like several things about the book should had gotten on my nerves, they didn’t at all.
Sophie herself is another example of this. In a badly written novel, she would be insufferable. She goes to college as a more fully-formed human being than I am in my late twenties, uncannily certain about who she is. And she is absurdly badass (under, of course, a very specific definition of badass). Clearly and coolly the best writer in their seminar, Sophie unofficially adopts the narrator of half of the novel, Charlie, who ends up with quite the reading list as the two discuss their taste in literature. When asked if she likes Nabokov, specifically Lolita, Sophie replies, “Sure…But I like Pale Fire better. And Ada. Some of the early Russian ones, too, like The Defense.” Men want her, and women want to be her!* (Again, under very specific definitions of “men” and “women.”)
So why is this girl, this child, allowed to be so brilliant without being offensive? Because she really is what she seems to be. She does know herself, is sure of herself—and it is uncanny. It makes her ethereal, not quite of this world. When they meet again later, Charlie recalls “the feeling I used to have watching Sophie from a distance on campus, when it seemed a travesty for her to be out in the world, interacting like a normal human being.” She’s not just a full-of-herself teenager—she is that too, but she’s also a bona fide, pretty low-key genius. (Ah, but why is that the case? That’s a whole other post!)
Continue reading What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha