The Love Hypothesis
by Ali Hazelwood
My co-blogger, Angela, told me that this was Reylo fic, and I was immediately like, “YES. SIGN ME THE FUCK UP.”
After finishing it, I thought Ange might have been led slightly astray by the people of Twitter, until I did some digging. The Love Hypothesis might have started as Reylo fanfic, but this published version doesn’t read like it. To me, the only thing that comes close is that the male lead, Adam Carlsen, is basically Adam Driver being grumpy for the entirety of the book.
The female lead, Olive Smith, is NOTHING like Rey. Okay, maybe she looks like her, but that’s it. And really, I can’t even be sure about that because her appearance is never actually described in detail, aside from her being 5’8″.
Instead of taking place long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, The Love Hypothesis unfolds at Stanford University, where Olive is pursuing her PhD. Adam is a tenured professor there and is pretty much the most feared man on campus. Science is his life. He has no time for anyone who takes shortcuts with their research or performs sloppy clinical trials. He also has no problem telling people what he thinks about their subpar sciencing (totally a word).
One night Olive is at the lab late, when she sees her bestie, Anh, who she’s been avoiding because – and this is admittedly super awkward – said bestie hit it off with the guy Olive was dating, and it’s obvious they both want each other and would already be tearing each other’s clothes off if not for the fact that Olive, like, exists.
Turns out, Olive never liked the guy she was seeing (Jeremy), and she wants Anh to just bonk him already, even though it would still be kind of awkward for her. So when she sees Anh walking toward her, she grabs the closest person with a penis and starts kissing him, hoping Anh will see that Olive has moved on and will therefore feel less shitty about breaking girl code by hooking up with Jeremy.
I know. It’s a lot to throw at you in the beginning of a review, but this all sets the stage for what’s to follow.
Who does Olive kiss but –
*pause for dramatic drumroll*
You totally saw that coming, didn’t you?
Luckily, instead of reporting Olive for sexual harassment, Adam is down with playing along. In fact, he suggests that they keep the ruse of them dating going because he wants the finance department at Stanford to think he’s setting down roots so they’ll give him more grant money.
Classic fake dating twist, amiright?
Before I get any further into this, I just want to state, for the record, that overall I enjoyed The Love Hypothesis. As a former aeronautical engineer, I am here for the women in STEM rep. But there are some things that kept my rating down that I haven’t seen many other reviewers discuss and I’m going to get into the weeds about some of my complaints for pretty much the rest of this review.
Consider yourself warned or whatever.
So Olive and Adam keep the fake dating facade up for several weeks, and here’s where I started to get slightly impatient with our girl Ol (yes, that is her nickname, and no, I was not a fan of it). It becomes increasingly apparent that Adam isn’t in it for the money. He likes Olive. A lot. It’s goddamn obvious to anyone following along. Except Olive.
Bear in mind that Olive is a super-bright doctoral student, so for her to not notice something this obvious is a bit unbelievable. I’ve seen other reviewers argue that she’s oblivious because she’s a sheltered “geek” and is socially awkward. BUT SHE ISN’T, THOUGH. In the beginning of the book, she’s able to successfully read the physical and verbal cues between Anh and Jeremy and immediately realize they’re both into each other even when they try to hide it. So how could she miss the fact that Adam displays 10x more interest in her?
If you want to argue this from a low self-esteem standpoint, fine, that could work. Olive definitely does suffer from that to some degree. She also has trauma from her childhood that makes her think that nothing good will ever happen to her because everyone will eventually leave her (her mother died of pancreatic cancer, leaving Olive completely alone in the world).
But I still had a tough time swallowing Olive’s ignorance, especially toward the end, where Adam was basically walking around with a lit-up neon sign over his head that read I HAVE A SERIOUS HARD ON FOR OLIVE SMITH.
The next gripe I had was that the one bisexual character in the book, Malcolm, was depicted as a highly promiscuous flirt who couldn’t make up his mind between boy/girl/boy/girl partners from literally one week to the next. Some super fun quotes:
- “And Malcolm, when he’s not busy screwing his way through the Stanford population.”
- “He did things that were unimaginable to most grads, like cooking real food! Going for hikes! Meditating! Acting in a play! Dating like it was an Olympic sport! “
- “Malcolm looked pleased – whether at the fact that he really did get around a fair bit or at Olive’s thorough understanding of his dating habits…”
First off, what a shitty way for someone to think about an alleged best friend. The subliminal slut-shaming in some of those quotes is gross, and I wanted to save Malcolm from Olive and Anh at some points. Secondly, I am OVER THIS DEPICTION OF BISEXUALITY. Maybe if I hadn’t seen this time and time again it wouldn’t irritate me so goddamn much, but ya’ll, it’s 2021. Bisexuality doesn’t equal promiscuity. It’s time to do better.
I also thought it was weird that Malcolm, is, like Olive, never really described, but then toward the end, there’s mention of his dark skin against hers, and … ? Was I supposed to read the name Malcolm and assume he was black? Is he even black? Latino? Indian? I have no actual idea, and that is pretty weird considering Adam is described in such great detail that I could tell you how many pores he has on his face.
My last big issue was the way the sexual harassment played out towards the end. Adam has a research partner named Tom. One of Adam’s other friends warns Olive to be careful around Tom, and Olive patently ignores that advice and just assumes that the friend is jealous or something, even though he’s a perfectly rational, well-adjusted college professor.
So Tom ends up sexually harassing Olive in an incredibly ugly, demeaning, disgusting way. It’s actually a little bit too much, if I’m honest. Like, it read like something a guy would say in the 80s, when there was zero fucking fear of reprisal, not now, post #MeToo when these fucks should all be running scared. That’s in no way to say this shit doesn’t still happen – God knows I saw some ugliness working in the STEM field – but something about the way this was written just felt OTT to me.
After the harassment happens, Olive doesn’t tell anyone. Not her friends, and not Adam, who takes one look at her and knows something bad just went down. She doesn’t talk, because, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, she doesn’t want to hurt Adam’s relationship with Tom.
What. The actual. Fuck.
I mean, fine, yes, that’s something someone might do. The harassment was horrible and ugly and by exposing Tom, Olive would have to relive her trauma all over again, publicly, because he’s in a position of power, but then just write it that way. That, at least, is a reason most modern women readers could swallow. But because Olive doesn’t want to break up their friendship? Jesus Christ, they’re research scientists, not The Beatles. I am sick to death of reading depictions of women being attacked or harassed by men only to keep quiet because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of another man.
I don’t know. Maybe this is just me being a bitch who sometimes struggles with empathy. Or, maybe as a woman in STEM, I just CANNOT with the men in those fields anymore – LORD, do I have stories. But I felt like this was a missed chance to have Olive, who up until this point was incredibly passive and borderline doormatty at times with aggressive male colleagues (I told you she was nothing like Rey), stand up for herself and out Tom as the raging misogynist he is. But she didn’t, and if not for her friends overhearing an accidental recording of the incident, she might not have ever said anything.
Okay, so that concludes me bitching, and I feel like I should remind you that it could all just be me. Every reader experiences every book differently; this is just my perception of The Love Hypothesis.
And I do want to say, again, that it definitely isn’t all bad. The scientific aspects of this were all depicted incredibly well, with a ton of detail, and yet without ever feeling too cerebral. You don’t need a PhD to understand all of Olive’s research. The romance was sweet and believable and pretty steamy toward the end. And there really was a ton of rep and diversity in here, I just obviously wish some of it was handled a bit differently.