Review: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

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The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone’s heart is about to be broken.

Firstly, I would like to that NetGalley for the preview of this book.

Secondly, I’m going to start with a disclaimer. I kept on falling asleep reading this book. I don’t know whether that’s because I had an exam this week (hence the short hiatus from reviews), but I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that the pace of this book is extremely slow (almost whimsical) and so don’t be fooled by the fact that this book is ‘only’ 300 pages – it took me a lot longer than usual to read (perhaps due to the aforementioned nodding off problem).

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Gottie Oppenheimer is a prospective physics student, who loves science. Last summer she had a summer romance with her brother’s best friend, Jason (her brother doesn’t know), and then her grandad died, and it took its toll on her. This summer, her childhood best friend is moving back home, and Gottie starts uncontrollably time travelling. Cool, huh?

I loved that Gottie loved science (a LOT of characters seem to love English Lit, hmm) and that science was theme through the book. STEM subjects are way underrepresented in YA literature, often because female characters are a little stereotypical – artsy, creative, usually not unlike the author themselves. I also loved that Gottie was in that AS/A2 gap (similar to Frances in Radio Silence, review coming soon) and trying to decide what to do with her life.

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I was also surprised to learn this is set in England (i’m too used to US-centric YA) and I liked the setting and backdrop to the story. The little droplets about UCAS applications, etc. really appealed to me, and I’d love to read more UKYA in the future (especially when they’re definitively set in the UK rather than some nameless place).

Something I find a lot of novels lacking is period talk. There’s a scene which I really appreciated – Gottie gets her period unexpectedly and stuffs her knickers with toilet roll to avoid a leakage. It’s a short and sweet passage, but there are no ramifications – periods are often only mentioned when they’re missed and a surprise pregnancy occurs. Please can we have more candid period/body talk – it’s something a lot of people experience and which is never discussed in literature (perhaps it doesn’t need to be explicitly).

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I loved the character of Gottie’s father – particularly that he was German, a real live parent with an interesting story. Firstly, often parents in YA novels are mysteriously absent, and they rarely have a backstory of being an immigrant – they tend to appear to have lived where they do their entire lives.

On the story of parents, it appears being the parent of a YA protagonist has a very high mortality rate. This isn’t necessarily a problem with the book, more of the genre in general – parents are always mysteriously absent (and often conveniently dead) and Gottie’s mum is no exception.

I also found that Gottie had a severe lack of actual friends – especially good female friends – as she shut everyone out. I’d love to see more female friendships featured in YA.

The love triangle didn’t feel forced or unnatural, and it was dealt with really well. Love triangles (or chevrons, as they should be called) are cliché, but this was different, and realistic.

Plot-wise, the time travelling got a little confusing – sometimes I’d imagine the characters one place, and then it’d turn out they were somewhere completely different.

Overall, a sweet time-travelly read which made me feel like it was actually summer (but it’s still March).

View all my reviews

The Square Root of Summer will officially be released May 5, 2016 (in the UK).

Annalise x

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