Title: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Science-Fiction
Format: eBook, 336 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: May 5th, 2016
Rating: 3 out 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.
With time travel, quantum physics, and sweeping romance, The Square Root of Summer is an exponentially enthralling story about love, loss, and trying to figure it all out, from stunning debut YA voice, Harriet Reuter Hapgood.
The Square Root of Summer is an intriguing young adult novel that mixes contemporary with science-fiction. It tells the story of Margot ‘Gottie’ Oppenheimer, a seventeen-year-old girl that discovers the existence of rips in her timeline in the form of wormholes after one day she’s hurled through time and space and into last summer. Aside from coping with her grandfather’s death and the sudden reappearance of her childhood best friend (and dealing with his staying in her home for the summer) and finding her way back to her old life, Gottie must now discover the science behind these wormhole and learn how to control them.
What initially drew me in with this book, aside from the gorgeous cover, was the promise of a sci-fi element in a contemporary setting. I was curious how that would work and how one might apply it, so when I saw The Square Root of Summer up for request, I immediately took the chance. I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised with what I read.
It is not often that one encounters real – or as real as it gets – physics in book, especially described in an appropriate way instead of getting glossed over or vaguely hinted at. Here we have actual, real physics theories and mathematics, accompanied with explanations and equations and charts, and it’s honestly the best thing ever. I’ve never been a science genius, but the subject has and still is one of great interest of mine, and this book made the inner ninth grader in me squeal with joy from learning all the things I missed in high school because my physics teacher sucked.
While I found the pacing a little bit dragging, in hindsight it seems rather appropriate for the story. The beginning is slow, but needed in order to establish the setting and the physics behind all that is happening, along with the introduction to the main plot itself. Another thing is, I half expected the narrative to be dry and the story emotionless because of the science-fiction elements, but that is definitely not the case. There is loss and heartbreak and love, all which mix surprisingly well with equations and theorems.
The characters were tough to connect with for me, however, despite being layered and multi-dimensional. I felt for Gottie only for her grief over the loss of her grandfather, but didn’t resonate much with the rest of her struggles. At one point she gets called selfish, which I agree with to some extent. Still, she was not unbearable, rather she felt realistic and relatable, for a seventeen-year-old. I’m sure than, were I a few years younger, I would have resonated with her completely. What I really enjoyed were the friendships between the characters and their bonds with each other. My favourite scenes are all of when the whole cast got together and had a good time, laughing and simply being in each other’s company.
Writing-wise, the book was a little wonky for me, but it fit Gottie’s character and the overall feel of the story. As I already mentioned, I really enjoyed the appropriate use of physics and how well it tied in with the rest of the plot. In addition, it is not cliché-ridden, which I particularly appreciated – along with the fact that Gottie’s interest in physics and mathematics was in no way undermined by anyone in the book, and it was even supported and encouraged.
Over all, I didn’t love The Square Root of Summer, but I enjoyed it quite a lot regardless. It is a quirky mix of family and science, with some heavy topics thrown in and handled with care. The book reads exactly as a contemporary novel, but the added sprinkle of science-fiction makes it stand out in a crowd.