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384 pages, Kindle Edition
First published September 14, 2021
✔️ The STEM angle. I did get the impression while reading this that the author was on comfortable and familiar territory. I felt that way about reading LOVE ON THE BRAIN, too. It blends into the narrative in a really nice and satisfying way. You get the, "Oh yeah, I'm reading about science! SCIENCE RULES!" vibe, but it never feels inaccessible. You're in on the joke. That's not always easy to do with technical writing, so I admired that in this romance.
✔️Adam. Look, he might have the personality of a sour glass of milk, but do we stan a gentle giant of a consent king? Yes the fuck we do. I'm starting to suspect that Ivy League Professor love interests are basically celebrity romances for stuck-up dark academia girlies. The way people swoon in this man's presence like they're at a Daisy and the Six concert in Daisy and the Six just cracks me up.
✔️The food descriptions. I'm a sucker for a food-friendly romance. And if you're going to have a book set in Palo Alto, you gotta dig in (literally! nom nom nom) to the California food scene. Which this book did. To my appreciation.
✔️ The weird cheap dates. They're students and supposed to be broke. So I don't know, I thought it was kind of cute how one of their dates was a stereotypical coffee date and another was a trip to get their flu shots together. I don't know, it just felt very college. (Plus, pro-vaccine!)
✔️ The sex scenes. Were honestly fine! But BookTok would have you believe that this is Fifty Shades of Science, though, and it is not. On the spice scale, this ranks so low that a Midwestern housewife might actually use it to season her mashed potato casserole. This isn't even a chili. It's black pepper with a kick. Yes, it's open door, but it's very vanilla and pretty brief.
❌️ My sense of disbelief has been thoroughly snapped. The entirety of this book hinges on Olive kissing Adam (not consensually) to trick her friend into thinking she's over a guy. Then they fake date to (1) continue this ruse of lying to her friend and (2) trick Adam's superiors into thinking that he isn't going to move away and get a better job. I haven't read this much pathological-lying-for-fun-and-profit since Sophia Kinsella's Shopaholic series. Lying is not just a cute little misunderstanding. I know people can be nonconfrontational but this really did feel pathological.
❌️ The demisexual(?) rep. Olive appears to be coded as demisexual because at one point she tells Adam that she has a low sex drive and can't really have sex with people unless she feels an emotional connection. But then, ofc, she becomes a total size queen who's horny for Adam... and it starts to feel kind of like she was "cured" by sex. I will not understate the value of a sexual relationship that makes you feel emotionally and psychologically "seen," but if Olive was demisexual, I wish she had used the label and there had been more context for her sexuality, and why she feels the way she does.
❌️ He can fit her whole boob in his mouth. I did not need to know this. But now, alas, I do. Also she's the tiniest smol-smol pixie girl to ever stand at a mighty 5'8" and there's like several mentions of how Adam's monstercock and monsterhands are so BIIIIIIIG that he might, idk, snap her like a wishboner. I rolled my eyes over all of this a lot. I know it's a kink, but it's not mine.
❌️ There's a lot of hate for the sciences in a book that's supposed to be empowering to women. I wouldn't say this if it weren't also present in the other book by the author that I read, but... for a "STEMinist" book, it kind of feels like this book hates women in the sciences. Both this book and LotB had conflicts that revolved around the heroine suffering some HUGE (police-involvement-level) harassment campaigns as a result of her gender that interfered with her work. Both this book and LotB feature heroines who seem almost disillusioned with their work and aren't really sure they're in academia for the right reasons. Both this book and LotB kind of give the impression that it's every girl for herself in the science world, which P.S. sucks by the way, so it ends up giving not-like-other-girls.
❌️ BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS EVERYWHERE. If you like this trope, you'll be happy. But I'm not a fan of big misunderstandings where both otherwise reasonable characters are deliberately and out-of-characteristically obdurate for the sole purpose of furthering the plot.
So overall, this book was fine. I'm surprised the author gets as much hate as she does for her books because they do what they set out to do. LOVE ON THE BRAIN is definitely a superior work, though, so I'm actually super curious about her most recent releases because she does seem to be improving with each subsequent book. My advice is to go into these expecting an airport chicklit sort of read, except with a hefty seasoning of some easily digestible science facts.
I know I'm probably forgetting to say more stuff but I think my review more than substantiates the rating.
2.5 to 3 stars
The best part about this story is the focus on women in STEM everything else is a blurry, one-dimensional mess that left me with way too many questions.
1. What if Olive hadn't fake kissed Adam? Would he have continued to wait even more years before engaging with her?
2. Olive kissing a random guy instead of properly communicating with her supposed 'best friend' is outlandish. Their motivation for keeping up the lies (and yes, they were both lying) was unconvincing.
3. How did Olive go (within a span of 2 hours) from being a victim of sexual assault to joking about bad sushi and inconsequential things. That scene could have been so powerful yet it was poorly handled by Hazelwood.
4. Anh, the 'best friend', is such a cliche character. Ugh
5. Hazelwood threw in asexuality to tick a box, not because she wanted to actually write an asexual character. Olive trying to explain her sexuality while Adam was going down on her was one of the funniest non-funny scenes I've ever read. Like, girl, stfu.
6. Finally, what exactly does Olive look like??!!! I knew she was 5'8" and skinny. For that matter, I know more about Adam's henleys and plaid shirts than I do him.
Overall, I was left feeling dissatisfied especially the fact that I didn't laugh even once. Isn't this meant to be a rom-com?
"It's fine." She waved a hand. She'd have rolled her eyes, if they hadn't been on fire. "The burning usually lasts only a few minues."
"You mean you've done this before?"
She frowned. "Done what?"
"Put in expired contacts."
"Of course. Contacts are not cheap."
"Neither are eyes."
"Come on. Maybe we're lucky and the chair will spot us. And I'll buy you an ice cream sandwich afterward."
"Will I be paying for this ice-cream sandwich?" He sounded resigned now.
"Likely. Actually, scratch that, you probably don't like ice cream anyawy, because you don't enjoy anything that's good in life." She kept on walking, pensively chewing on her lower lip. "Maybe the cafeteria has some raw broccoli?"
"I don't deserve this verbal abuse on top of the flu shot.
"Are you going to be less harsh, then?"
She sighed. "You know, when I have no more friends and everyone hates me because of this fake-dating thing, I'll be super lonely and you are going to have to hang out with me every day. I'll annoy you all the time. Is it really worth being mean to every grad in the program?"
"I wish you could see yourself the way I see you."
"You're so big." He groaned into her neck. His entire body was vibrating with tension.
"You can take it."
Adam: My arm hurts
Olive: From the flu shot?
Adam: It's really painful.
Olive: Oh, Adam. I'm so sorry.
Olive: Should I come over and kiss it better?
Adam: You never said it would hurt so bad.
Olive: As someone once told me, it's not my job to work on your emotin regulation skills.
"No matter how many pounds of spoiled shrimp cocktail you projectile vomit, you can trust me. We're a team, you and I. And Malcolm, when he's not busy screwing his way though the Stanford population. So if Carlsen is secretly an extraterrestrial life-form planning a takover of Earth that will ultimately result in humanity being enslaved by evil overlords who look like cicadas, and the only way to stop him is dating him, you can tell me and I'll inform NASA–"
"I have access to your Google Calender, asshole. You're not busy. If you don't want to hang out with me, you can just be honest."
"I don't want to hang out with you."
"You little shit. After the wee we just had. And on my birthday."
Adam recoiled slightly. "What? It's not your birthday."
"Yes, it is."
"Your birthday is April tenth."
"Is it, though?"
Adam closed his eyes, scratching his forehead. "Holden, we've talked daily for the past twenty-five years, and I have been to at least five Power Rangers-themed birthday parties of yours. The last one was when you turned seventeen. I know when your birthday is."
"You always had it wrong, I was just too nice to tell you."
“He’d clearly never seen a rom-com or read a romance novel in his life.”
"You could room with me.”
“The room is a double, of course,” he offered, as if that piece of information could have possibly changed her mind.
“It’s not a good idea.”
“Adam.” She rubbed her forehead with her fingers. “There will be only one bed.”
He frowned. “No, as I said it’s a double—”
“It’s not. It won’t be. There will be only one bed, for sure.”
He gave her a puzzled look. “I got the booking confirmation the other day. I can forward it to you if you want, it says that—”
“It doesn’t matter what it says. It’s always one bed.”
He stared at her, perplexed, and she sighed and leaned helplessly against the back of her chair. He’d clearly never seen a rom-com or read a romance novel in his life.