Tuesday 30 September 2014

Book Review - Love and Other Unknown Variables

Love and Other Unknown Variables
Author: Shannon Lee Alexander
Genres: Contemporary | Young Adult
Release Date: 7th October 2014
Publishers: Entangled Teen
No. Pages: 352
Source: Review Copy - Entangled Teen
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
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.)

Have you ever started reading a book with absolutely no expectations, with no idea what the book is about, yet feeling as though it's about time to give the book a chance, and you give a book that chance and almost immediately, you can feel that this book is the right book for you right now. Slowly and steadily, you find that the book has everything you didn't know you needed in a book right in that moment, and you know for a fact that on any other day, of any other month, there's a chance, there's a risk, that you wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as you did, but the book came along on the perfect night, with the perfect balance of humour, of heartbreak and wonderful characters, of real life issues and relatable relationships and there's absolutely nothing that you can fault. If you've ever read a book and experienced these feelings, then you'll have no problems relating to my feelings towards Love and Other Unknown Variables. This book melted, broke and light-up my heart and I absolutely adored it.

Where on earth do you start with a book that explored so many emotional angles you'd forgotten you had? Lets start with the fact that the book is explored through the eyes of a male 18 year old, because that is an extremely rare feature and I think that sadly, that is lost on the cover that the book has been given. The cliche cover feels very female romance with extremely cliche moments and nerdy girl groups, but it's really nothing like that at all. I absolutely adored Charlie has a main character, I thought his voice was extremely relatable, I thought his character was lovely to experience life through and I really thought his entire character development throughout the entire story was wonderful. From the moment he touched a random girls hair in a donut shop to see her tattoo, to the utter heartbreak that is the near ending of the novel, Charlie went through so much throughout Love and Other Unknown Variables and let me tell you, I loved it, I hated it, I laughed at it and cried at it, it was glorious.

Lets move into the the humour and heartbreak in this novel, with as little and few spoilers as possible. Oh, and the nerdy, geeky moments within the novel too, they were absolutely perfect too. Love and Other Unknown Variables was extra wonderful because it was set in the now perfectly, it wasn't 21st century without the media jokes, it wasn't recent but without important underlining facts and issues that occur in todays society, it was relative, it was right in with the now, with smooth mentions of jokes relating to Harry Potter -

Brighton goes through English teachers like Hogwarts devours Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers.

- the language was blunt and forward, talking about hard-ons and hormones like it's the most natural thing in the world, because they are, the general attitude of writing a book with teenagers who act like teenagers and it was really impressive. Charlie and Charlotte's humour and banter was really entertaining, but then Alexander brought in the heartbreak, the horrible horrible plot twists that, because I went into this book blind, I didn't see coming until it hit me right in between the eyes and boy did I weep. I cried. I really couldn't stop my drainage problem, Alexander hit me hard with her twist and I think there's another reason why this book was even more perfect, the actual twist in itself was relative to the current time in my life, I could relate to how the characters in this story felt because of Charlotte's confession, how it affected them, I felt that same away about a specific member of my family and the anniversary of their death being very recent only made that affect hit me harder. Alexander's mix of humour and heartbreak and up to date language and relativity really hit the right notes with me in Love and Other Unknown Variables.

If there is anything I feel I would warn people off, it'd probably be it's common features with The Fault in Our Stars, but if I'm truly honest, I didn't notice these common features until after the event, I was won over by the friendships and relationships in this novel and how they were explored. I enjoyed Charlie's friendships with Greta and James and how they interacted with one another, even the friendship that blossomed between James and Charlie was lovely to read about, alongside the friendship between Charlotte and Becca, Charlie's sister, which was equally wonderful to read about. Charlotte's relationship with her sister was also really well explored, but it was the relationship between Charlie and Charlotte and Charlotte's character that won me over completely with this novel. Charlotte is a character that is rarely explored in young adult literature, a young, charismatic teenager who wants to be more than her issues, who wants to prove that she is more than a list of problems and who explores the truth about being unwell and making decisions on your own life. Only too often to hear about family's having the control and only too often do you get happy endings, but Love and Other Unknown Variables doesn't have these features, Charlotte is weak in body but strong in character, she is independent, she is capable, she has dreams and she wants to live life, rather than survive it, and I, from a personal point of view, appreciated her health decisions and adored that Alexander was brave enough to explore them. Charlotte and Charlie's relationship was also just wonderful, it was honest, it was slow, it was raw, it was explored so deeply and so adorably, I couldn't fault it. The feelings where honest, there emotions were tangled and they were always, first and foremost, teenagers falling in love for the first time - they appreciated one another, came to care for one another and were a support network for each other and I really can't remember the last time I was that emotional over a book before Love and Other Unknown Variables.

I don't think this cover does this book justice. I don't think my review does this book justice. I don't think looking at other reviews will do this book justice. There's nothing that can be said, by me or by others, that can explain the features and the writing and joy that is this book. Some people will be unimpressed with this book, but I feel that it's people with a personal connection to the characters and the issues brought up and related to in this novel that will fall in love with Alexander's work. I cannot fault this book. I found the whole experience both wonderful and horrible, I found it hilarious and heartbreaking, I found it enjoyable and painful and I found emotions I haven't felt in months through reading this book. Another time, another day, maybe this book wouldn't have become a favourite, but it did, and I couldn't be more grateful.


  1. Holy crap that's a glowing review. MAN. I did not expect that from the cover!!! It's so awesome when books surprise you like that, in a way that's almost haunting :)

    SO happy this one was such a fantastic read for you!

    1. A lot of people feel this is like lots of other books, but for me, in that moment, everything was perfect. Glad you liked reading this Allie, you should try the book itself for sure! :D


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