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I Finally Read The Book That TikTok Is Obsessed With

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

YA novels are my not-so guilty pleasures. It could be because something about their formulaic nature makes them thoroughly enjoyable. Or because reading books about those in situations you could (very theoretically) be in is surprisingly comforting. Of course, as is the case with most books, some of them instantly become a part of my “will continue to re-read forever” list, while others I try to forget I ever read because they are actually that bad.

Needless to say, I read. A lot. My standards are high. So when the literary TikTok community (a.k.a. BookTok) kept bringing up The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, it piqued my interest. Was it actually worth all of this hype? It had to be with all of the attention it was getting. I kept seeing it over and over and over again, so I looked it up. I’m not going to lie to you, when I first read the synopsis I was thoroughly confused as to why this book stood out. The fake-dating trope has been done to death (the To All The Boys I Loved Before franchise has slightly ruined it for me). And it’s not a bad trope at all, but I was trying to understand what it was about this book.

So I read the novel, and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The narrative is told from the perspective of Olive Smith, a third-year PhD student studying pancreatic cancer at Stanford. When she impulsively kisses Dr. Adam Carlsen, a professor in her department that is notoriously known for being “antagonistic and unapproachable,” she panics. But they soon realize that everyone thinking they’re dating is beneficial to both of them. Olive can prove to her best friend that she’s moved on from her ex; Adam can prove to the biology department that he has no intention of leaving Stanford. Their story is about putting on this act, but Olive may or may not be falling in-love for real. It is an interesting idea, setting a romance story in the world of academia, but this book is vastly overhyped.

I enjoyed many aspects about The Love Hypothesis, but I think I liked the book for the “wrong” reasons. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about the relationship I was told to care about. The reasons as to why they are fake dating make no logical sense. And if the premise doesn’t work, even after suspending disbelief, that’s hard to recover from. But I think my biggest issue is the characters themselves. I found Adam kind of generic and bland. We are told he is moody and sullen, then he becomes less moody and sullen when he is around Olive, and that’s basically it. It’s hard to understand why Olive is into him romantically instead of just sexually. And speaking of Olive, she is not written well either! Her entire personality is reduced to being a quirky grad school student. I wish I was exaggerating, which is why I don’t understand why every other character views Olive as if she’s one in a million; the book never gives a concrete reason.  

Another topic that is not handled well is Olive’s sexuality. Olive is portrayed to be on the ace spectrum (most likely demisexual) but they barely talk about it. They don’t even bring up the terminology—just that Olive has trouble being attracted to someone she isn’t close with—which is why readers have to resort to speculation. Ace representation is few and far between, so I would have appreciated the novel a lot more if this was a focus instead of just offhandedly alluding to it.

The primary relationship, and the characters themselves, feel underdeveloped and a bit childish, and when a YA novel starts to become too detached, I lose interest (especially when the writing sometimes made me laugh out loud with its cringiness).

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But as someone who knew little to nothing about pursuing a career in academia, I found the “boys club” mentality eye-opening, especially in STEM. Olive not only deals with the imposter-syndrome that comes with being a woman in a male-dominated field, but manages the emotional aftermath of sexual harassment. These topics were actually handled maturely, which can be tricky with YA novels because the primary focus tends to be on the relationship. 

I also enjoyed how the book is self-aware in a comedic way. Olive is a big fan of romantic comedies, and since The Love Hypothesis contains many common romance tropes, she would offhandedly point them out when they applied to her and Adam. And as someone who has read enough of these tropes, I really liked this meta-ness. The only questionable thing about this choice is that it openly contradicts Olive’s hesitations about Adam.

All in all, I’m glad I gave The Love Hypothesis a chance. Do I think it deserves to be titled one of the best romance books the year? Well, no. Not even close. But it’s a fairly quick read and a decent story about being a woman in STEM. With its rising popularity, definitely worth trying it out if you’re interested. 

Annie Melnick

Washington '24

Annie is an English major at the University of Washington, where she is a contributing editor and writer for Her Campus. She is originally from Los Angeles and enjoys creative writing, reading novels, listening to music, traveling, and drinking coffee.
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