The reason this book fell flat for me can be summed up by the author’s note at the back:
This book is my hate letter to standardized testing. It’s also my love letter to neuroscience, Star Wars, women in STEM, friendships that hit rough patches but then try their best to bounce back, research assistants, interdisciplinary scientific collaborations, Elle Woods, ShitAcademicsSay, mermaids, hummingbird feeders, people who struggle with working out, and cats.
It’s just…too much crammed into one novel, methinks, especially considering that Hazelwood has a sizeable fan base and likely a solid publishing deal that includes more books. It feels therefore like you lurch from one plot point to another, without enough time to fully build up the main non-will-they-won’t-they (they will) conflict. Sexism in STEM is everywhere, insidious, and unlikely to be solved in 300-ish pages. I suppose I’m happy to live in a land where it is, but the whole set up is a bit contrived.
For example, after being at BLINK for an entire week Bee’s boss is all, “if you can’t get anything done in a week then maybe you’re not the best person for the job.” This at NASA, famous for the “we’re going to launch the Webb telescope in
2007 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015-2016 2018 2019 2020 March 2021 December 2021!” That’s just not how science (or engineering) works, and I know that Hazelwood knows that so is it that she thinks her audience doesn’t? Then when pushed they can “finish the project in three months!” Like, what???
This book also derives a lot of its ~tension~ from characters repeatedly assuming the worst and saying the least. “I know how this is going to go,” says Bee/Levi about a thousand times in a thousand different ways, and not even one of those times did I not want to reach through the book and lock them in a room together until they Talked It Out (possibly the only trope not in the book–not that I’m complaining).
Look, I’m all for books that reveal the seedy underbelly of academia/science. I don’t dislike the book, and I’ll read her next one. Hopefully she’ll take the success of this book as a comfort and sign to slow down, so that her next novel(s) focus on fewer things for longer.