Narrator: Callie Dalton
Published by Penguin Audio on September 14, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 11 hours, 8 minutes
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As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
I frequently rely on book friends and blogs when looking for new books to read. I occasionally consult lists on Goodreads, author newsletters, or the ‘Customers Also Search’ section of books I’ve purchased from online retailers. However, I never thought I’d write these words, but this book recommendation comes courtesy of TikTok. I usually avoid this platform as a form of personal protest (ok, I’m just old), but The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood became a TikTok sensation as a brainy romance with a fun, nerdy origin story, and it sounded like a book I had to read.
Olive Smith is a struggling PhD student who enlists the aid of the brilliant but grumpy Dr. Adam Carlsen in a fake dating scheme. Lab and Conference hotel shenanigans ensue. I was immediately intrigued by the prologue, where Olive is struggling to decide if Academia is the right career path and excited to start the story. The first chapter was a disappointment and I had a hard time with a set-up that seemed wildly implausible and out of character. Fortunately, I was intrigued by the characters enough to keep reading. It took only about couple of more chapters before I was fully back on The Love Hypothesis train and was able to reconnect with the story. I was tossed back to my undergrad days which involved a lot of studying, game nights, and coffee shops rather than the parties and social whirl featured in the college settings of other New Adult romances.
This story was originally conceived as Reylo Fanfiction (that would be Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars). Before beginning the book, my brain had already imposed characteristics of the two movie characters, especially Adam. I love that the author gave a nod to Adam Driver (the actor that plays Kylo Ren in the movies) in her name choice. Adam was delicious and smart and cantankerous. I am sucker for the Darcy-type. I found Olive relatable and her sci-fi references appealed to my inner geek.
While this story used common tropes (fake dating, grumpy/sunshine), the setting for the story was not as common. Ms. Hazelwood has personal insight into the world of Academia that gave this story an authentic feel. The culture of self-promotion within Academia, the need to publish, win grants, justify funding for one’s work, result in an environment that is as cutthroat as any private industry. Olive and Adam approach and manage these challenges differently. Olive struggles to overcome her feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, in addition to gender-based discrimination. Adam has created a hard shelf of success and genius to insulate himself from almost everyone. I loved that there was substance to the plot beyond the romance, with believable career and personal struggles. The author spotlights challenges to women in STEM and reinforces the value of Title IX, the law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on gender. Even lighthearted, funny romances can promote ethical and social awareness.
Ms. Hazelwood unapologetically tackles contemporary romance tropes with some tongue in cheek jokes. She’s created sympathetic leads and some humorous supporting characters that kept me engaged and interested. This isn’t just a sweet romance, but a story of personal triumph with an important social message. I thoroughly enjoyed the Academic setting and can’t wait to read more of the author’s work.
Callie Dalton does a nice job on the narration. I could clearly distinguish between characters and I think her pacing and diction were great. She manages to capture the upbeat but shy aspect of Olive. A pre-conceived notion of what Adam sounds like had me wishing for someone with a little deeper register to do his parts. I listened to the book at 1.25x, as normal speed seemed a little too slow for some of the character interactions.
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