The Love Hypothesis was one of the books recommended to me as part of a “read 12 books recommended by social media followers” challenge for 2022. It was also one of my Book of the Month picks and it had been sitting on my shelf for a few months when I plucked it to read after devouring Book Lovers. It focuses on Olive, a Ph.D student researching early pancreatic cancer detection, and Adam, a brilliant professor known for his tough and sometimes brutal approach to teaching.
The official synopsis:
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.
Olive… wasn’t my favorite. Her character had potential to be someone to cheer for. A brilliant woman in a competitive, male-dominated STEM program who has had to overcome a lot to get where she is. Except she came across as whiney, entitled, and even a little manipulative until the very end of the book. As someone who loves to write messy characters trying to navigate life, I may be being a little hard on her, but there were a few times where I considered closing the book and moving on, especially early on. Adam, on the other hand, showed his true colors quickly – he wasn’t the jerk students believed him to be, just a scientist that cares perhaps too much. He’s also totally in love with Olive so he agrees to fake date her so she can convince her best friend that it’s okay for her to date James, Olive’s ex.
Despite my hang ups with Olive, I became engrossed in the story around a third of the way in and wondered how things were going to shake out as Olive was in quite a mess of her own creation. The author is a professor of neuroscience by day and her knowledge of what this layperson will call the “scientific and academic world” shines through which caused me to add a half star to my overall rating. The unique setting of academia is a selling point, as is how Olive and her best friend navigate sexism and one professor who epitomizes the “Me Too” movement.
While Olive was at times difficult for me to like, the overall story of The Love Hypothesis was engaging and the support characters (especially her friend Malcolm) made for a few great substories. I also appreciated the friendships that underscored the entire story.
Overall, The Love Hypothesis is a light, easy read, perfect for summer days by the pool or at the beach. While I can’t say I ever fully liked Olive, she did grow on me by the end of the book. Pack this one for vacation or save it for a weekend spent poolside.
I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.