The TikTok viral book delivers on troupe filled twists and turns.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
- Buy the book here
- Page count: 384
- Genre: Romance, comedy, contemporary, fiction
- Content warning: Discussions of workplace harassment and assault
Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis has earned the title of being a “BookTok book” through being heavily read and discussed by content creators on TikTok. The romance novel has earned both praise and criticism from the community, with some hailing it for being sweet and funny, and others hating it for feeling cringe.
There’s one obvious trait about the fanfiction that sets it apart from other romance novels: the book has roots in fanfiction. One look at the cover and any Star Wars fan (me, I am the Star Wars fan in question) will immediately notice the cover star characters bear a striking resemblance to two familiar faces. Author Ali Hazelwood has been open about her own start as a writer of fanfic and how this helped start getting her own original work published.
There is a lot of discourse surrounding the value and validity of fanfiction, but I tend to stand with the principle that spaces encouraging new creative writers are a good thing. For those without access to creative writing programs, writing groups, or publishing industry connections, fanfiction websites might be the first place a young writer is able to share their work and receive feedback from readers and other writers.
Ties to fanfiction aside, The Love Hypothesis is an original work with original characters. The story follows Olive, a third-year Ph.D candidate who enters a fake relationship with notoriously brooding professor Adam Carlsen to convince her friend Anh that she’s over another boy in their program.
I read this book in one day. I bought it, brought it to local cafe, and read the whole thing before dinner time. It moved that fast. Each chapter begins with a “hypothesis” that gives a little clue about the action of the chapter. While Olive and Adam start off the book as strangers, the antics of the well meaning Ahn force the two into intimate and often humorous situations that grow the bond between them.
Outside of the romance, the book focuses on misogyny experienced by women in STEM fields and provides a look at the specific challenges that women like Olive face everyday. It was nice to read a lighthearted book that focuses on this issue but also showed the passions and achievements of women in STEM. Ali Hazelwood, who has a STEM background herself, does a nice job portraying of what the experience of women in academia looks like.
This book kept me reading because it does a nice job of growing a genuine connection between the two lead characters. I’ll admit that the story felt a bit absurd at the beginning, but the longer things played out, the more I found myself rooting for Olive and Adam. Hazelwood’s best moments in this story are the lighthearted and comedic ones where she leans into the fact that this story is cheesy and goofy.
There’s a nice inkling of self-awareness in the book, too. Olive seems pretty aware that she’s living out the plot of a steamy romance movie, even quipping once that she and Adam will likely end up experiencing the classic “one bed” romance troupe if she agree to share a hotel room with him.
If you’ve read my discussion of Vampire Academy, you’ll know that I am tired of stories about power imbalance relationships, specifically those between older men and younger women. Although Adam is not Olive’s direct supervisor and they do not work together, he still holds a high position in the department where she is a candidate. I was frustrated that this book once again represented an unrealistic desirability of dating one’s superior. Powerful and strong women do not need to date older men with higher positions to “meet their match”. It would’ve been simple for this story to take place between two Ph.D. candidates.
Power dynamics aside, there is one thing in this book that I just cannot get past: the recurring Title IX jokes. For a book that makes a point to tackle sexism and harassment of women in the STEM fields, I am surprised by the jokes about Olive and Adam reporting each other to HR. Sexual harassment of women in academia continues to be an issue, and it felt in poor taste that these jokes were included in the story.
It has been a long time since I have read a happy romance novel. I can say this: I had fun reading The Love Hypothesis. The overall story provided a funny, if unrealistic, get-together between two characters who could not be more different from one another.
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