I finally read THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood and ended up enjoying it more than expected. Since there are already a lot of reviews out there, instead I focus more on commentary.
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Age Category: New Adult
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: September 14, 2021
Print Length: 400
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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.
Since there are a ton of published reviews about THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS, mine focuses more on commentary and less on the review. Anecdotally, it seems like most people enjoyed reading it. However, there is a portion of readers who feel that this book doesn’t take Title IX seriously and, thus, perpetuates the perception that professor-student relationships are acceptable. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”
I admit that when I heard about and read the premise of this book I was highly skeptical. I normally don’t read romance novels unless it falls under the fantasy umbrella. And even if I did read romance novels, I wouldn’t gravitate towards those with obviously skewed power dynamics. However, I kept seeing hype (and hate) about this book. So I decided to see for myself exactly what is the big deal about it. I fully expected to dislike it, but was instead pleasantly surprised.
First, let’s get this out of the way: the fake dating scenario is utterly unbelievable. It’s highly unlikely that any student would scramble to kiss the first person to cross their path without 1) checking to see who that person is; or 2) as a means to convince their best friend (Anh) that they have no feelings whatsoever for the last person they casually dated (Jeremy) in order to convince said friend that it’s ok for that friend to pursue said casual ex-date. Granted, THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS isn’t supposed to be realistic to a tee. Rather, it’s more light-hearted than not. So if you can get over that aspect, then you’ll be able to move forward.
Second, I didn’t find the fake relationship between the professor, Adam Carlsen, and the Ph. D. student, Olive, to be as problematic as some commentary lead me to believe. Instead, what I found more problematic is that Olive, a scientist who values logic, wasn’t forthright with Anh. Honesty is an incredibly important component of friendship and trust. Now, before anyone thinks I condone professor-student relationships, I do not. Context, which is another way of saying nuance, is important.
There is a difference between a professor dating their own student and a professor dating a student who 1) isn’t their student, 2) isn’t on said student’s thesis committee, and 3) isn’t said student’s advisor. This fake relationship between Adam and Olive is the latter situation, that is, they didn’t have a student-professor dynamic. That doesn’t mean it won’t cause awkward situations or a whirlwind of gossip since they’re in the same department (biology). But in this book Adam and Olive are 1) two consenting adults, 2) contacted the department’s ethics committee about it, and 3) set boundaries. Could Adam have leveraged his power dynamic? Sure. But he doesn’t. And that’s the key: he doesn’t. I’m sure not everyone will agree with my opinion, but there it is anyway. If Olive actually was Adam’s student, my opinion about this book would be different.
Another reason this book incenses some readers is because Adam and Olive joke about violating Title IX. I understand why this may cause consternation. It may come off to some as making light of a very serious and important law that seeks to protect people from sex-based discrimination in a setting that can be rife with it. I’m not saying it’s ok to scoff at Title IX because it is a vital law. But at the same time, there’s a difference between joking about it in a derogatory or disrespectful way and having an inside joke about it. The latter occurs in this book. However, I will entertain the thought that perhaps what made the joking “ok” is that the kiss happened to a man from a woman rather than to a woman from a man. Yes, is a double standard and, no, I’m not equipped to go down that road in this post.
Though I found the book slightly unbelievable for the sake of comedy, it was entertaining nonetheless. As a woman in STEM, what I connected with the most is the feeling of inadequacy as a budding scientist; the fear of speaking and disliking networking; and the discrimination that occurs in the field of science. I have been very fortunate to have awesome colleagues. However, it’s almost impossible to avoid an interaction with someone who has a chip on their shoulder and must inflict it on someone because that’s how they experienced their scientific journey. This probably isn’t unique to the STEM field, either.
I also enjoyed watching Olive’s fake relationship stealthily evolve into something more. Though Adam is known as antagonistic and unapproachable, the small moments they shared showed another side of him. I wouldn’t call Olive courageous at the beginning, given her aversion to telling Anh the truth. But I admired it later when she found the strength to report a rather rotten event.
I know I didn’t gush about this book, but I did end up enjoying it. I flew through the last 150 pages of it. There are plenty of other reviews that can highlight what makes this book fun to read. As such, I wanted to focus my commentary/review on the parts of the book that may be considered a grey (or black and white to some) area. I hope this provides clearer context of the situation. And if you don’t agree, that’s ok, too. But if you feel as I do above and enjoy light-hearted, rom com, contemporary romances, then I have confidence you’ll enjoy THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS.
Content warnings: sex, sexual harassment
Reading format: Library paperback