Book Review: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

That’s okay, I didn’t need my heart and soul, I’ll just let them bleed.

Sorry, I sobbed at the ending of this book. But it is soooooo good, and for the most part it is HILARIOUS!!!! And romantic. And perfect.

5/5 stars!

cover love and other unknown variables

Amazon description of Love and Other Unknown Variables

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).

(I read this book like two weeks ago and am just now getting around to reviewing it…whoops)

I absolutely loved this book. I usually avoid “cancer books” because I don’t like reading something that focuses on sadness (especially doomed romance) but the cover/title of this book was waaaay too cute to pass up. I’m so glad I decided to read it.

First of all, this is more than a romance, and way more than a “cancer book.” It is freaking hilarious–I literally laughed out loud dozens of times–and the characters and side plots ensure that the story has more depth than a normal contemporary romance.

The premise of this book doesn’t fully encapsulate the relationship Charlie and Charlotte have in the beginning (and for a large portion) of the book. Yes, the pranks draw them together, but the pranks were going to happen anyway (school tradition) and their relationship is based much more prominantly on Charlotte’s friendship with Charlie’s socially awkward sister.

I loved the sister dynamic. It added conflict to the growing romantic tension between the pair because of the fact that they were “stealing” a BFF from a girl whose social life outside of Charlotte was nonexistent. It also exposed new sides of Charlotte’s character, helping to round her out as a love interest.

Charlie was a perfect protagonist. Voice wise, he reminded me a lot of David in Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. They have the same geeky teenage boy voice. I’ve only ever read a few romances told solely from the male perspective, but it really worked in this one. I connected to Charlie as a character and found him to have a deep and complicated personality; his feelings for Charlie acheived an impressive balance of horny-teenager and guy-who-actually-appreciates-a-girl’s-personality.

The math element of this book was great. I was afraid that it would just be a cute title and a half-assed joke running through it, but Alexander surprised me by making (appropriately complicated for his level of geekiness) math a major part of Charlie’s character, the plot, and of course the humorous elements of the book. It all worked, and created a fascinatingly mathematical (while still being romantic) lens through which the story was told.

Charlotte’s character was good too. I liked the way her illness affected her personality. The dramatic irony created while Charlie is in the dark about her illness added to the story’s tension but also allowed the story to be about more than her illness. The truth of her cancer doesn’t come out until at least halfway through the book–which I loved. Their relationship was already tense, sweet, and complicated before the book’s focus turned to her impending doom.

The rest of the characters were well-developed and added to the story without overpowering it. The subplots moved the plot along without cheesily projecting THEMES into the characters’ lives.

I don’t want to say too much (no spoilers!) but I loved the ending of this book. It was exactly what it needed to be without being overpowering or cheesy. I cried (duh) but I was also laughing. Conflicts were resolved and the book left me with a positive note (again, without cheesiness–YAY).

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cutesy romances, witty banter between characters, stories with a sad twist, deep characters, math humor–EVERYONE basically.

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