Feb 12 2014

Review: The Theory of Everything by JJ Johnson

Review: The Theory of Everything by JJ JohnsonTitle: The Theory of Everything
Author: JJ Johnson
Published by Peachtree Publishers
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: 01 October 2012
Pages: 334
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult (YA)
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Goodreads | Amazon
Just because everyone else thinks you should be over it doesn't mean you are.

Last year, Sarah's best friend Jamie died in a freak accident. Back then, everyone was sad; now they're just ready for Sarah to get over it and move on.

But Sarah's not ready to move on. She can't stop reliving what happened, struggling with guilt, questioning the meaning of life, and missing her best friend. Her grades are plummeting, her relationships are falling apart, and her normal voice seems to have been replaced with a snark box. Life just seems random: no pattern, no meaning, no rules - and no reason to bother.

In a last-ditch effort to pull it together, Sarah befriends Jamie's twin brother Emmett, who may be the only other person who understands what she's lost. And when she gets a job working for the local eccentric who owns a Christmas tree farm, she finally begins to understand the threads that connect us all, the benefit of giving people a chance, and the power of love.

My Review of The Theory of Everything:

The Theory of Everything was a fun little book that caught my eye because one of my best friends had it on her shelf, and being the bookish snooper that I am, I opened it up. The first thing that grabbed me was the doodles. Do y’all remember that children’s book from the 90s by Marissa Moss called “Amelia’s Notebook“? It was one of those perennial book fair items and I loved the quirky hand-written journal style, the doodles, the caution tape.

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The Theory of Everything has that kind of quirk, but in chart form. Though this novel is not in journal style, each chapter starts out with a chart or graph of some sort by Sarah, depicting her struggle get along with her family and continue to live every day after the death of her best friend Jamie. Despite the sad premise of the book, The Theory of Everything is not sad. If anything, Sarah covers her sadness with anger and SNARK. A lot of snark. Actually so much snark that I started to agree with her parents and therapists that she was not processing what had happened, but also I understood her attitude because it’s not like her best friend being dead is going to get better.

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Sarah’s life hasn’t stopped, though. She’s still going strong with her boyfriend, who is sweet and caring despite how Sarah herself has changed. Sarah has managed to avoid Jamie’s family for the last 8 months, but finds herself slowly reconnecting with Jamie’s twin brother Emmett. I really liked this part of the plot, because Johnson didn’t go the route I expected. Sarah and the boyfriend had their problems, but Emmett wasn’t there to fill in the gap for Jamie or the boyfriend. He was a pretty peripheral character for a lot of the book, actually, and even with some of the conflicts at the end, they’re not suddenly in love and clinging to one another because of their common love for Jamie. Johnson very successfully avoided what could have been a sweet, probably too sweet, resolution, and I have immense respect for that! At the same time, the end is very … open. Johnson doesn’t go the expected route, but Sarah grows and changes and has decisions ahead of her that the reader doesn’t witness. It was a fitting reminder that just because Jamie’s life and the story are over, Sarah’s life goes on, and not everything in her life is tied up neatly as she skips off into the sunset, heart mended, love interest at her side. I want to throw my hands up and dance around JJ Johnson for this. Seriously. I do.

Because of her guilt about the accident and her grief over losing Jamie, Sarah has shut herself off from everyone. She doesn’t have other friends because everyone tip toes around her and her parents are worried and stressed because their sweet daughter has become incapable of saying anything without sarcasm. When her dog Ruby gets loose and makes a mess at a local man’s home, Sarah has to help him out with his Christmas tree business to make up for the damages. She learns that she’s not the only one who has experienced immense pain in her life, and that having a job where she gets tired and sore and can see the fruits of her labor is satisfying in a way that she didn’t expect. She starts trying to put herself back together, hold back every snarky comment that pops into her head, smile at her parents, be less cranky around her boyfriend. Even though this is starting to sound like a training montage with Eye of the Tiger playing in the background as Sarah works on herself, it’s not. These changes are gradual. She messes up. She’s mean, she’s selfish, she’s grieving.

I seriously can’t tell you all how much I loved The Theory of Everything! I definitely plan on purchasing this one for myself and checking out what else JJ has in store!

4 Stars


  1. J.J. Johnson

    Thank you for your thoughtful review! I’m so glad TTOE felt real, not precious. Means the world to this writer. xoxo JJ

    1. Terri

      Thanks JJ! Keep up the great work! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming up this fall.

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