Olive Smith – a driven, focused young Ph.D student. She has no interest in relationships – she is far too concerned with researching ways to detect pancreatic cancer early, to give more people a chance of fighting it. That is her goal in life, and nothing will get in her way. Until she has a chance encounter with Adam Carlsen, a legendary biology professor – legendary for both his brilliance in his field, and for being ‘an ass’ to his students. In an effort to encourage her best friend to pursue a relationship with her barely an ex ex, Olive starts ‘fake dating’ a surprisingly willing Adam. While doing so, she learns a lot about him, and herself – maybe she’s not too busy for love after all.
I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I’m often wary of novels that are massively hyped up – this book was huge on Instagram, and absolutely blew up on ‘Booktok’, with so many reviewers raving about it. I bought it cynically, with no particularly high hopes…and I’m so glad I did, because I was completely charmed by it.
A New York Times bestseller, the novel explores many different issues, such as consent, academia and the role of women there, and the sometimes dangerous power struggle between student and professor. It also depicts sexual harassment, and consensual sex scenes – something to keep in mind if you are sensitive to these things and choose to read this book.
The author, Ali Hazelwood, began writing by creating fanfiction – starting with Star Trek, and moving on to Star Wars. ‘The Love Hypothesis’ came about when she was approached by her now agent about writing an original novel. She reworked one of her fanfictions, and this novel was born. Hazelwood herself has a background in STEM and academia, and is also a professor, so she based the story in a setting that she is well versed and comfortable in, and it shows – she navigates the world with ease, and her narration of her students, particularly her female students, seems strongly anchored in reality.
This book follows the age old grumpy meets sunshine trope – it’s comfortable, and there aren’t too many surprises. It feels safe, and warm, and easy. The characters are likeable – I was really rooting for them, and I was invested in their story. We’re given glimpses into their past, so we know what their driving forces are. They compliment each other very well – there is no expectation on either side that one should sacrifice their goal or passion for the other. They are equals, with mutual respect for each other, which is refreshing to read.
The issue of consent is also referenced in this novel – Olive asks Adam if she can kiss him before she does so. She is horrified when he tells her that she kissed him before he said yes – she thought she had heard him agreeing. Later in the novel, during a sexual scene, consent is also discussed, with one character telling the other that they can always change their mind. I think it’s an important factor and to me, it’s well written. It isn’t a contrived effort that screams ‘look at me, I’m talking about consent!!’, it’s normalised, and part of a respectful interaction between the characters. It also makes the scene of sexual assault, where there is clearly no consent all the more harrowing. The juxtaposition of the two vastly different interactions is very effective, and definitely adds another layer to the story.
One aspect of the novel that I found interesting was the mention of Olive’s sexuality – she is demi-sexual, meaning she doesn’t feel attracted to a person unless she has a strong bond with them, and trusts them. She’s also a virgin, she hasn’t felt that level of trust with anyone yet. It’s something that I haven’t read before, and I really think it was clever of the author to include it – it adds to the connection between the two main characters, and it sparks a conversation around waiting to have sex, and to lose your virginity, and normalizes it.
Overall, I found it to be a well written love story, with some interesting aspects. Does it have flaws? Of course, every novel does. It’s predictable, and a tad simplistic – the characters have struggles, but they’re young, good looking, intelligent people, so it’s not too much of a stretch to guess that they’ll get what they want in the end.
However, it really is one of those feel good stories that will stay with me for quite a while. It was investing, easy to read and sweet. I devoured it in a day, refusing to put it down until it was finished. The author has another novel due to be released in August and I can’t wait.
I rated The Love Hypothesis 5 stars.