Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander


Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.

The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.

By the time he learns she's ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).


5 out of 5 stars

23ish years ago, I sat in my 10th grade English class and listened to a friend read a story she had written for some assignment that I don't remember.  

Two thoughts ran through my mind that day.  First, that her story was really really good.  And second, that crap, I was going to go have to rewrite mine because my story really really wasn't.

Today, I'm reviewing her first book on my blog.  A concept that excites me now just as much as it terrified me at first -- because what if things didn't end well?  I mean, what if it wasn't good?  What if I didn't like it?  That might make things a bit awkward.  Keep in mind too, that there is a LOT of math in this book and I consider math to be the academic equivalent of Voldemort.  WHO WRITES A BOOK ABOUT MATH???

Still, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read her words and from the first page, it was quite obvious that I had made the right decision.   

I absolutely fell in love with this story.  

Charlie Hanson is my book soul mate.  Quirky and nerdy and obsessed with plans and rules...holy crow, I adore him.  I want him to be my best friend.  And Charlotte...she is who I want to be when I grow up.  Brave and ballsy and knowing exactly who she is.   Opposites on paper, together they make total sense and make my heart want to dance with happiness.  And laughter.  Y'all these characters are witty and snarky and so very funny.

Until.  And you know there is always an "until."

Yup, there I was floating along on a bliss cloud and BAM.  Things started to happen and though you probably know what they are, you also know I don't do spoilers -- you'll just have to be content with "things happen".  I emailed Shannon in tears and said "YOU DIDN'T WARN ME!"  Because I totally did cry.  

 A lot.

All that being said, you should know by now that I crave books that evoke intense feelings, so I didn't consider this to be a bad thing.  Not at all.  In fact, as a reader who reads for the emotional journey,  I quite often consider those books to be the best books.  

Here's the thing, though.  Yes, there were tears.  Lots of tears, actually.  But while sadness was definitely the obvious "in your face" emotion, it wasn't what stayed with me after I finished the book.  It was the light, the hope, that Charlotte brought to Charlie's life that still resonates with me today.  

Months after my first reading, weeks after the second...there are three words that stick with me.  Three words that I have highlighted on page 304 that Charlie says to Charlotte that go on the very top of my "if I ever get a tattoo" list.  I've wrapped them up so very tight and keep them close to me and think of them every day.  

Three words. 

So, yeah.   

I've been sitting here for a while now trying to figure out how to finish writing my review.  Do I pretend that I have some sort of well though out critical analysis of writing style and character development when that is not at all what I do? Ever.  Do I gush about how so very proud I am of my friend and how thankful I am that this book has brought us back together?  Do I talk about how I've been in a YA slump lately and how this book reminded me how much I love the genre?  Do I link you all to the picture she just put in a blog post of us from when we were 13?

Or do I just admit that nothing I can say about Love and Other Unknown Variables will sum up my thoughts in the way that I want to express them.  Just take my advice and let Charlie tell his story. 

**I have to confess that I had my original review ending with the words "absolute zero"...and I was all kinds of proud of myself.  Until I googled it just for confirmation and realized that it was a chemistry term and not a math term.  You can lead an English major to water, but you can't make her like math.  I'll leave the numbers to Charlie.     




  1. I need to take a month off of work to read all the books you have shared that I now am dying to read!