The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood has been on my radar for most of this year, and it was one of the books I was most looking forward to this month. Then I found out that it was one of Book of the Month‘s main September picks, and I was thrilled! (Actually, four of the books I was most excited for this month were included in BOTM, so they’re clearly on top of their game right now!)
Since it’s September and school is starting around the country, I was planning to read some novels with academic settings and themes this month. Although I’ve decided to push my spooky schools books to early October, The Love Hypothesis still felt like a perfect book to kick off the school year now.
|The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood|
|Number of Pages||356|
|Format I Read||Hardcover (BOTM)|
|Original Publication Date||September 14, 2021|
When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.
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.
This almost never happens for me, but I have to admit, I was in a bit of a “book hangover” when I started reading The Love Hypothesis. I had just finished Portrait of a Scotsman, the third book in Evie Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women series, and it was just incredible. My obsession over it may have initially gotten in the way when I was starting The Love Hypothesis. Sorry!! But don’t worry, because soon enough, Olive and Adam stole my heart, too.
The novel opens with two awkward chapters. In the prologue, Olive is blinded by her contacts (I can relate to that; I’m so glad I got Lasik a few years ago), and she’s having a conversation with a nice, polite man she can’t even see. Then in chapter one, she randomly kisses a stranger just so her best friend Anh will believe she’s in a new relationship. The scenarios in both of these chapters are silly and borderline cringey (for the characters, not just us helpless bystanders), and even the dialogue is often stilted.
This awkwardness continues when Olive and her random kiss victim (Adam) decide to embark on a fake-dating relationship. Their reasons for fake dating seem flimsy, if I’m being honest. Olive briefly dated a guy named Jeremy, but he and Anh are obviously into each other, but feel they can’t date because that would be disrespectful to Olive. So to prove she’s totally over Jeremy, Olive decides that (fake) dating another guy would be just the proof she needs for Anh to feel okay about pursuing Jeremy. For his part, Adam is seen as a “flight risk” and, thus, a portion of his research funds have been frozen. To prove that he intends to stay at Stanford, a (fake) girlfriend would certainly indicate his commitment. As far as reasons to fake date go, those seem pretty… silly? But okay, I’ll go with it.
To establish validity of their relationship, Olive and Adam arrange to be seen together weekly at the campus Starbucks. This is a great opportunity for them to get to know each other. Maybe Adam isn’t quite as evil as other students believe? Maybe they actually have some things in common that they can bond over? But soon enough, these weekly meetings turn into additional, unexpected meetups. And with Anh meddling on a nearly daily basis, Adam and Olive are pushed into a bit more PDA than they’d anticipated! Again, the situations are often awkward, but it’s all in good fun. I certainly enjoyed laughing at them.
Although Olive and Adam’s interactions start off pretty gracelessly, I enjoyed watching them open up to each other and grow a certain affection for one another. They slowly become friends, which warmed up my heart! But when other feelings come up, is it better to risk it all or hide in the safety of friendship?
The Love Hypothesis is actually really cute, and I loved both Olive and Adam. We’ve established that Olive is rather awkward, but she’s also intelligent, hardworking, and a devoted friend. I related to her severely limited income – being a poor student is no joke! – as well as her lingering grief after losing a parent. And Adam, despite his grumpy, mean, overly healthy façade, is actually a total cinnamon roll. He shows himself to be generous, loyal, and kind. Even if he wants more from Olive, he never even asks for more than she seems willing to give. He’s a true gentleman. A gentle giant.
Something I was pleasantly surprised to see in The Love Hypothesis is what seems to be asexual representation. I almost never see asexual characters in the books I read (but I hope that I’ll see more representation in the coming years!). Here, Olive describes how she doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards others until she grows to trust and like them. This implies that Olive is demisexual (only feeling sexual attraction to someone with whom they have an emotional bond). Further, Olive states that she doesn’t particularly want to have sex… but she doesn’t not want to, either. That’s also indicative of many aces’ experiences. I love that Olive falls within the asexual spectrum, and I love the conversation she and Adam eventually have about it.
Now, Olive and Adam’s relationship does get into the murky territory of a Ph.D. student dating a professor in her department. To be fair, Adam has never served as an advisor or professor to Olive in the two years she’s been at Stanford; he’s never served on a panel or committee in which she was judged, either. So Olive isn’t quite dating her own teacher. But it’s still close enough to cause some people a bit of discomfort. Satisfyingly, these issues are addressed directly and early on in the novel.
Moreover, one thing I really appreciated about The Love Hypothesis is the element of #MeToo that arises. I won’t get into any specifics, but a theme of sexual harassment comes into play, and one question is whether the person who’s been harassed will be believed. When the perpetrator is powerful and respected, will someone’s word against them be taken seriously? It’s a tough subject – and particularly relevant today – but I love how it was handled here. The way the situation is resolved, and the way a certain character responds upon learning about it, really made me love this novel even more.
Going off of that, I also enjoyed how academic this novel is. While I have a master’s degree, I never pursued a Ph.D. My amazing sister, though, is currently a Ph.D. student (in Ireland! In sociology, though, not biology.). I imagine she would get a kick out of this book and relate to a lot of aspects about it! Further, this novel specifically gets into how few women in STEM there are, why and how they must be lifted up, and how STEM programs and fields can start to welcome more women (and people of color!). It’s another wholly important topic that’s woven into the entirely of this novel.
The Love Hypothesis fairly meta throughout, which was an additional thing I adored about it. Olive, a romance fan herself, talks about romance tropes, from fake dating to the only-one-bed theme genre lovers all enjoy. Olive is acutely aware that she’s put herself into a rom-com of her own making, and it’s hilarious. And this story is truly as good as any beloved rom-com.
The Love Hypothesis is an adorable and insightful contemporary romance. It felt a tad awkward at the beginning (thanks, Olive), but it really grew into a delightful and funny story. Adam and Olive are both excellent, and I love how everything wrapped up at the end. It’s relevant and fun, and a wonderful debut. I can’t wait to read more from Ali Hazelwood in the coming years.
About the Author
I’m originally from Italy, lived in Japan and Germany, and eventually moved to the US to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. I recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies me. Oh, the sheer dread of being entrusted with the care of young minds!
When I’m not at work you can find me binge-watching shows with my feline overlords (and my slightly less feline husband), running, or eating candy.
I’m represented by the amazing Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.