The Love Hypothesis was all over my insta feed, youtube, and even my friends were sending me Tik toks praising this book. Fake-dating, tall and small, grumpy and sunshine pair, it has everything I love in the book. But I had to wait a few months to get the book from my public library.
The Love Hypothesis is Ali Hazelwood’s debut novel, and it features fake dating, a STEM academic setting, chaotic besties, a demisexual protagonist, and lots of PSL runs.
Ph.D. candidate Olive Smith finds herself launched into a fake relationship with fellow grouchy Professor Adam Carlsen when her best friend Anh tries to set her up. Even more surprising, Adam agrees to buy Olive all the Pumpkin spice frappuccinos her heart desires. But the more time Olive spends with Adam, she discovers that there’s more to him than the arrogant professor who spooks his grad students. And a few perfectly timed kisses later, Olive realizes she has feelings for her fake boyfriend.
However, after attending a conference in Boston, Olive’s world is completely shaken, and her future in STEM is at risk. Luckily, Adam is there to support Olive through it, but she’s keeping a few big revelations from him. One, his research partner isn’t who he appears to be, and two, she’s deeply in love with Adam.
But finding the courage to confess to those things and save her career is a heavy burden, but Olive’s friends got her back.
This novel contains an academic STEM setting that I did not think I would enjoy (I was more passionate about the humanities). But the Love Hypothesis makes it work because sprinkled amongst the science experiments and research jargon are coffee dates, kisses, and lots of teasing that made me feel engaged with the story.
This book also emphasizes how mentally draining an academic career in STEM can be. But the strain is worse for women because of gendered discrimination. Additionally, the intersection of racial gendered discrimination is mentioned but not explored. Olive’s BFF, Anh, is Vietnamese American and champions her own BIPOC women in STEM organization in the novel, which was great. While I think this topic is worth exploring, I’m okay that it wasn’t part of Olive’s arc in this novel and that title Xl was instead.
When Olive and Adam decide to fake date, Adam teases that he’s adding more to his title IX complaint about Olive. However, when a colleague sexually harasses Olive, things become serious. Olive reacts out of anger and then despair when she realizes that filing a complaint could cause negative repercussions to her and Adams’ research. When Olive accidentally plays the evidence to her friends, she’s adamant that she wasn’t sexually harassed and is resolute to handle the situation by herself.
I liked that the book handled the situation by bringing in an outsider, in this case, Anh and Malcolm, to look at things objectively. Because it’s easy to lie to yourself, but it’s harder to do that surrounded by people who love you. I also liked that Olive took her power back and immediately looked for a way out of working with this person before she made up her mind to expose them.
The Love Hypothesis also features great side characters like Anh and Olive’s roommate Malcolm. However, it’s Adam’s bestie- Holden- who has my heart. Holden is a ball of sunshine, laid back, and charming. Holden is a great juxtaposition to the grump Adam, and I wish he was in the novel more, but he does steal the scenes that he is in.
At its heart, the Love Hypothesis is a romantic comedy made up of great side characters and even better best friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the double date at the very end, and I thought it was the perfect way to end this book.
CW: Unconsensual kissing in the first chapter, sexual harassment, Mention of parental death, and discussions of gender discrimination.
Until my next review book besties I’ll be living in libros,
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