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Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
I have so many thoughts on this book that I hope I can make a coherent review so let’s dive right in! Haha
First, I really don’t think that this synopsis does the book as much justice as it deserves. The basis of it is accurate but I feel like this book is about so much more than the fake-dating trope. Honestly, that was probably my least favourite part, but the connection between Olive and Adam is perfect chemistry.
This is a story about a woman making a name for herself in the male-dominated world of STEM academia and all of the difficulties that come from it. Add in her relationship with a professor, and you can really get a feel for what a woman has to deal with from her peers and mentors. It is an amazing representation of the pressures that women go through from undermining a woman’s brain by thinking she ‘made it’ based on a relationship, to the every day events of men taking the better lab times. In the same way that Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein shone a light on the very true concerns within the gymnastic space, The Love Hypothesis brings forward sexism in STEM in an approachable but poignant way.
That being said, it also speaks to the pressures that their male counterparts are subject to. It was really great to see both sides of men in that space: the verbal abusers and the verbally abused. Hazelwood was able to write these layered dynamics brilliantly.
One of my favourite lines in this book comes from Olive’s mentor (a fellow woman in STEM) when she says:
“Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.”
Truly, that will stay with me. It’s such an eye opening statement on so many levels.
I loved how these characters had depth with flaws that seemed real and honest. I appreciated how many topics were brought forward with the various character backgrounds and I particularly liked how Hazelwood handled the topic of the exploiting pressure to perform public displays of affection. She did it in a way that didn’t feel as though she was pushing to make a point but it was still made all the same. And the character doing it was able to see they were in the wrong in a quiet way that just added to the subtly that Hazelwood brought to many important topics in this book.
Another aspect that I appreciated immensely was Olive’s sexual orientation. It was never explicitly said but this is where Hazelwood’s subtlety comes into play again. The way that Olive’s inner dialog plays out and how she voices her concerns about relationships really makes me see her as demi-sexual. I have never read a book where a character was so clearly demi to me and so open and vulnerable about it while learning what it means for them that it was so refreshing to read.
Now after all of that gushing about how great this books was in many respects, why not give it 5-stars?
Well, there were a few things that I felt could have been improved by editing. There were many repetitive descriptors for characters that had me saying ‘ok, I get it’ multiple times. There were also some issues with the way that some scenes were written that had me confused as to where we were in the plot, which characters we were hearing from or talking about, and just generally clunky or non-existent transitions. The fake-dating trope also became extremely convoluted even though I could tell they were trying hard to not make it appear that way. For the brains that these characters are shown to have though, they seemed to switch off at very opportune times.
While this was not a perfect book, I can absolutely get on board with all of the love that it is receiving. Truly, it is WELL deserved. We need way more books like this. We need smart, nerdy, unapologetically contemporary feminist books that show flaws but also healthy growth. Books that touch on very real and difficult topics without hitting you over the head with lessons you are supposed to take away from it. I will certainly be grabbing Ali Hazelwood’s next book as well.