My book club picked The Love Hypothesis (2021) by Ali Hazelwood for our next book. It sounded like a fun romantic comedy, so I was eager to read it. Olive is a biology Ph.D. student at Stanford, working her ass off for very little money but high ideals. In a misguided, desperate attempt to convince her best friend that she’s not interested in Jeremy–a guy she dated a couple of times (she does this because Jeremy and her best friend are perfect for each other and she wants them to date)–she kisses a random guy in the hallway. The random guy in the hallway turns out to be the notoriously brilliant and difficult Stanford professor, Dr. Adam Carlsen.
When Dr. Carlson (Adam) finds out why Olive came at him in the hallway, he proposes that they fake date for a short time. That way, Anh (Olive’s best friend) and Jeremy can date without guilt and Dr. Carlson can convince the powers-that-be at Stanford that he’s putting down roots and settling down, which should free up some grant money for him. Olive and Adam begin meeting at the campus coffee shop once a week to convince everyone that they are a couple. Olive assumed this would be a quick and awkward weekly date, but the more time they spend together, the more she likes him. Unfortunately, she’s sure that there’s no way he could like her, so she sabotages any possible relationship left and right.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. There was a lot of fun dialogue, clever writing, and winks to the tropes of romance novels. The leads had good chemistry, and I wanted them to get together. All in all, it was fun to read.
On the other hand, you definitely need a willingness to suspend disbelief. Olive is an intelligent, talented scientist, but in order to get the story going she has to be ridiculously silly (at best). The idea that a grad student would kiss a professor without realizing who he is or think about the consequences is farfetched.
In addition, as I continued to read, I got more frustrated with Olive. Her actions were so unnecessary and immature. I’ve always disliked the trope of, “I love him too much to tell him the truth,” and I didn’t like it in this book either. I probably would have preferred a slow burn where they naturally fall for each other rather than a failure for adults to tell each other how they feel. Despite these problems, I really did enjoy reading this, and I’m already looking forward to Hazelwood’s next book.
***SPOILERS***Olive ends up dealing with some difficult sexual harassment from a colleague and friend of Adam’s. It was harrowing, and I’m glad the book took it seriously. I hate that Olive contemplated not telling Adam what happened “because she loves him too much to ruin his friendship.” In fact, many of Olive’s choices were so frustrating because she wasn’t treating Adam as a person with feelings and freedom of choice. I know Olive would want to know if one of her friends and collaborators was illegally harassing her underlings. How would she feel if someone she thought she trusted decided that she was better off not knowing. (Fortunately, Olive quickly changes her mind on this.) In fact, I kind of wish that Adam was a little less patient and perfect and called Olive out on some of this. I also wish that Adam had the opportunity to support Olive before he hears the recording. ***END SPOILERS***
“It’s okay. Expiration dates are for the weak.” (3)
“All Ph.D. students were like that: thinking they were better than everyone else just because they had the dubious privilege of slaughtering fruit flies in the name of science for ninety cents an hour.” (4)
“Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.” (224)
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