Love and Other Unknown Variables
Shannon Lee Alexander
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: October 7th 2014
by Entangled Teen
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).
-A copy was provided by Entangled Teen for review-
Love and Other Unknown Variables ended up being a much more emotional read than I expected, and one that has substance and depth. Not the fluffy story I somehow expected after seeing this cover and blurb (which, to be fair, I only skimmed). There were things that were a tad annoying like the prank story arc, but aside from that it was a really good read.
We’re treated to a brilliant, literal narrator, Charlie, who, despite his genius level of intelligence, can be very oblivious and awkward especially in social and romantic situations. This makes for a very endearing read at times, and humorous at others. I loved his bluntness and no-bull way of thinking. I also loved that even if he was socially inept when it came to girls, he would still risk it and just see what happens. It wasn’t the kind of read where you’re rolling your eyes at the shy narrator who’s too awkward to make a move, frustratingly letting opportunity slide by. His character is also very real and very easy to like. He’s written as this average high school teenager at heart, despite his being in the “smart school” and already having his future mapped out. The secondary characters are also given realistic, open personalities. Personalities that really give the book some extra life and a bigger heart. I loved how supportive his friends were, and I especially enjoyed the stability they offered in his life. There’s no angst or fruitless drama. His best friends are a couple, and they’re his friends. And that is that. What I liked even more, though, is seeing Charlie form a bond with his sister. I love it when sibling relationships and shown with such authenticity in books.
I’m not saying there isn’t any fruitless happenings at all, however. The school they attend has this reputation of pranking their English teacher until the latter quits. Their teacher this summer is none other than the love interest’s sister. Even though it had me rolling my eyes at first, you do eventually realize that these ridiculous and sometimes mean pranks work well to show us how one’s perspective can change in an instant. When Charlie finds out the real reason why Charlotte needs her sister distracted, the book suddenly becomes way more intense. Proving the pranks to be silly and immature in the face of such a real, heartbreaking monster. We literally see Charlie becoming more mature; he grows up before our eyes, and it’s sad in a way – to have to go through such an emotional ordeal so young in life.
One might say that getting attached so young is impossible, yet this author makes us believe in Charlie and Charlotte’s connection. Being in Charlie’s head, we can see how much of an affect she has in him. How much she has changed him, made him a better person, a person who is likely to take bigger chances. A person who knows what really matters in life. To not fear change. Sometimes, it takes some ugliness to show us what’s really important. I love this book for what it ended up being. I love it for taking an ugly subject and giving us a beautiful story. I’d recommend it to fans of John Green and Gayle Forman.