In The Love Hypothesis, Olive is a PhD candidate working in a biology lab at Stanford. She’s content with her life, even if it’s not that lucky in love—but when her best friend Anh falls for the guy Olive has dated casually a couple times, she has to reevaluate. It might be a good idea to pretend she’s in a relationship, so Anh will feel it’s okay to pursue her own relationship. So Olive impulsively kisses someone, who turns out to be Adam Carlsen, a professor in her department who is young, handsome, and an absolute tyrant to all his students. However, he surprises her by agreeing to pretend to date her, and as they grow closer, Olive starts to realize that there might be something to romantic relationships after all. If only this one were real…
I chose this book on a whim, but wow is it cute!
I really like Olive as a protagonist. She’s very witty and intelligent, but also inexperienced and a little at a loss about romance. She’s also loyal and caring, but is also willing to omit the truth if it will help her friends. She’s very complex, and I really enjoyed watching her growth throughout the book. Adam is also fantastic. He’s like a science professor version of Mr. Darcy, off-putting on the outside but caring and respectful once you get to know him. The other characters like Anh, Jeremy, Malcolm, and Holden are wonderful, too. They’re well written and distinct and a really fun group of people.
In terms of the plot, most of this story revolves around the “fake dating” scheme, as this is a romcom book. And it’s done so well—the way consent especially is navigated is excellent! Olive is definitely something like demisexual, only experiencing sexual attraction under certain circumstances, and it’s never treated as a character flaw or something for her to overcome. Even as she begins to acknowledge and even express her attraction, that is still a part of her. And the way Adam is so considerate and respectful is so great to see.
Also, on a related note, you know it’s a good slow burn when you’re sitting there like “just kiss already, please? Or at least hold hands? Something? PLeAse?!”
The other major aspect of this book tackles what it’s like in academia, particularly STEM academia, as a woman. There’s a lot of toxicity and difficult work, which can sometimes be complicated by gender, unfortunately. Olive deals with various issues in her workplace, and the nuances of this field are presented so well. It’s clear that Hazelwood is writing from experience for a lot of it.
In the end, The Love Hypothesis was delightful! I loved the characters and the plot. The romance was incredible, complex, and refreshing. The themes about honesty, being open to vulnerability, and standing up for yourself are great. This will make you laugh, scream, and swoon, and I had an amazing time reading it. Ali Hazelwood is a promising author, and I cannot wait to see what else she has in store!
(Well, I say reading it, but I actually listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Callie Dalton. It was fabulous.)
Overall rating: 8.8/10
Content note: There is a scene that involves sexual harassment of a woman, and it’s fairly harrowing. There’s also another (separate) scene involving sex, and while it is (enthusiastically on both people’s parts) consensual, it is very steamy. If that’s not your thing, I believe it is its own chapter, though, so it’s easy to skip over. Or not. You do you.