Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: sexual harassament/assualt
Did I read the same book as everyone else? Because this book was a big fat NO from me. I know a lot of people love The Love Hypothesis, but everything about it – from the writing to the characters, to the plot and even the romance – did not work for me. If this wasn’t a hyped book, I would have put it down after the first chapter and marked it as Did Not Finish.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this review.
To try to make this digestible, I’m going to structure this a little bit differently than my normal review with sections:
Within the first page of The Love Hypothesis, I knew this book would not be for me because of the writing style. I know this was originally fanfiction, but I was expecting better writing since Berkely published it.
First off, why are there SO MANY ITALICS in this book? You may be thinking, “oh, they’re for internal narration!” Nope. They were all italics used for emphasis. Dear Lord, there were five different words italicized for emphasis on the first page alone. As soon as I noticed the italics, it was all I could see. By my count, there were only about 47 pages in my ebook without italics. The story was only around 230 pages long. I just couldn’t with that.
The tone also missed the mark for me. I feel like Hazelwood was aiming for quirky and fun, but I found it childish and too cutesy for my tastes. It impacted my read on Olive as a character (more on that below on the characters).
And dear Lord, was this book lacking in descriptions. And the descriptions it did have were so repetitive. Did you know Adam was big, dark and huge? And did I mention he’s big? And he’s got a deep voice? I felt like I kept getting hit over the head with these same descriptors for Adam every time he was on the page. Meanwhile, with Olive, I felt like I knew nothing about what she looked like besides she was around 5’ 8” and that she’s Canadian. The only reason I pictured her as a brunette is because of the cover.
Finally, I felt like there were a lot of chunks of dialogue text where there were no attributes or tags to who was speaking, which sometimes made it hard to follow a conversation. When deployed properly, a lack of attribution during a conversation in a book can be a great writing device. Here it just caused confusion.
This book has the dumbest reason for a couple to begin fake dating. And that’s not even touching the non-consensual actions that lead to it (more below in the romance section). Instead of talking to her best friend in the world like a normal person, Olive needs to lie about dating Adam to make her friend feel comfortable about now dating a boy that Olive went on a few dates with. Like what? WHAT?
It’s like, “oops, I got caught kissing this guy. Guess we now need to pretend to be in a relationship, so my friend feels okay in her relationship.” In what world does that make sense? This whole book wouldn’t have happened if Olive had just stopped lying. Even Olive knows that as she says: “It would have been so easy to confess the truth.”
I feel like the whole reason the plot of this book exists is summed up by this passage:
“This was what happened whenever Olive lied: she ended up having to tell even more lies to cover her first, and she was horrible at it, which meant that each lie got worse and less convincing than the previous.”
I just couldn’t deal with the weak premise for the fake dating and the plot. I threw the book across the room every time Olive told a new lie, and then at the end, she had the GALL to tell Adam, “You didn’t need to lie, you know.”
Finally, the conflict at the end of the book made me so angry. It hinges on sexual harassment in academia. Up until that point, that had become a joke thanks to the treatment of Title IX earlier in the book. That rubbed me the wrong way for a lot of reasons. It’s a serious issue, but it was thrown in as a random plot point and not given the exploration it needed as it was there to purely introduce drama into Adam and Olive’s relationship.
Additionally, Olive had proof of what happened on a tape recorder. Still, she forgot about it for multiple chapters and, of course, decides the only way to resolve the situation is to – you guessed it – lie.
Let’s talk about the characters. Our main female lead is Olive, and the book is primarily told from her perspective. Despite this, I felt like I knew relatively little about her.
Additionally, Olive came off as incredibly childish. Her actions read more like a high-schooler, not someone in her mid-20s in a Ph.D. program. Honestly, if this story featured two high schoolers, I might have bought it more as the fake dating premise would make more sense.
Also, I found it weird that Olive kept insisting she was all alone in the world. Yes, her parents are gone, but Olive has an incredibly close-knit friend group with her best friend Anh and Malcolm who have her back no matter what. Heck, even Adam is there for her, yet she insists she’s all alone.
It does appear Olive is asexual in the novel, which I appreciate, but I also found it hard to know if she identified that way. There were a few throwaway lines earlier hinting at it and a bit more of an exploration of it later in the book, but it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity to explore that more.
Now on to Adam. Weirdly, I sort of liked him even though I found him bland and lacking dimension. Because the book is told from Olive’s point of view, I struggled to get to know him beyond the surface level as the two of them never had in-depth, genuine conversations. I know he’s big and huge and has a deep voice, but his personality seemed to be a bit non-existent.
There did seem to be a bit more to Adam than meets the eye, and I wish Hazelwood had explored that more. Everyone says he’s this mean person, but I felt like he was one of the few characters who was a voice of reason. While he might have cultivated a bit of a toxic work environment, it seems like he was coming from a genuine place of wanting to help others, not hurt them. I honestly didn’t find him as much of a bad person as all the characters in the book did.
Outside of Olive and Adam, the secondary characters felt very flat and like caricatures. They’re also supposed to be Olive and Adam’s friends, but boy, were they all terrible friends.
Finally, our villain character was almost too evil villainy to be believable in a contemporary romance. He seriously gives a monologue like you’d see an old-school Bond villain do, and it just felt so out of place and a bit out of left field.
And finally, we’ll close with my thoughts on the romance. This book lacked any sort of chemistry between Olive and Adam. I just did not see it at all. There was no spark, no fizz, no butterflies in your stomach.
Now, I can see why some people love the romance in this. It is full of extremely popular tropes. You get fake dating with a splash of enemies-to-lovers, what is not to like? But the tropes were executed poorly, which hurt the romance.
Let’s also start with the fact that their romance starts non-consensually. Olive literally grabs Adam and kisses him without his consent. The first chapter writes this act off in the first sentence:
“In Olive’s defense, the man didn’t seem to mind the kiss too much.”
If the roles were reversed, we find that incredibly problematic, yet the book portrays it as an adorable meet-cute. Add in the fact that he’s a professor and she’s a student and you get a really weird power dynamic in play. The book tries to write it off as a non-issue, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
Additionally, all the scenes where we’re supposed to be building romantic tension fell flat for me. I found it so weird that she was sitting in his lap in an academic lecture in front of everyone and that her friend essentially forced Olive to make out with him afterward.
And the sexy scenes were so not sexy. I was already dreading the sex scene as the book was not working for me, but it was even more cringeworthy than I imagined.
First off, Olive kept on HER UNICORN KNEE HIGH SOCKS. That’s the opposite of sexy. Second, Adam, of course, is BIG. It’s the only thing we know about it, so it obviously extends to his entire body. Finally, I actually threw the book down with this line:
“He could fit her entire breast in his mouth. All of it.”
First off, how? Second off, why? That does not sound romantic to me at all.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a good sex scene. But this felt like it was in there just to add some smut (a term I hate!) and didn’t add much to the overarching story. It was also incredibly cringe in its writing, so I couldn’t wait to get past it. If they had better chemistry, it might have worked better.
Finally, let’s talk about the falling in love part of Olive and Adam’s relationship. I felt like she wasn’t actually in love with Adam as she had to be told by someone else that she loved him before she felt it. And then, when she realized she had feelings for him, she had to lie about it to him. I felt like Adam was much more invested in their relationship than she was. It was abundantly clear to everyone except Olive that the man was head over heels in love with her and would do anything for her. It took her far too long to realize that.
I wish we had a little more time with them as an actual couple, as they were in a fake relationship for most of the story. I’d have liked to see more of their real relationship as that was more interesting to me, and they seemed like they’d be cute together.
I hope this review doesn’t come off as too harsh, but I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about why this did not work for me while I was reading it. I did want to like this one, but it was clear pretty quickly that this was not going to be the book for me. I felt like I was hate-reading it to finish it, which is never a good sign.
Will I be reading more from Ali Hazelwood? At this point, probably not.
Her next book Love on the Brain, sounds and feels way too similar to The Love Hypothesis to hold any appeal for me. As a relatively new author, I don’t want to write off someone completely, but I think she’ll need to write something drastically different for me to want to pick up one of her books again.