Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Entangled:Teen (20th Oct 2014)
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).
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THIS FUUUUU BOOK. THIS. FUUUUU BOOK!
*insert gif of Bradley Cooper chucking the book out the window in The Silver Lining’s Playbook*
If any review, ever starts off with “this fuuuuuuuu book” assume it’s a heartbreaker. An outright, kick you in the crotch, heartbreaker.
I don’t even have words right now, all I’m doing is lying in my bed, rolling from side to side, making dying whale noises and trying not to dribble tears from my eyes.
But coherency is a must as a reviewer so let me just tell you right off the bat, this book will break your heart. Yes. Absolutely. It will also make you snort and laugh, and apparently that’s the authors way of saying sorry for breaking your heart in the first place. But as we all know, I’m not happy unless there’s a sad ending that I don’t wana accept, but also I hate when that happens.
Love and Other Unknown Variables is brilliant. I knew it from the moment I started reading it, with it’s witty characters, (enter Charlie, Charlotte, Becca, James, Greta) - all of them were just seriously amazing characters - realistic, fiercely loyal, hilarious to the point I snorted so many times my sister thought there was a pig in the room, and oh so loveable.
We’ll start with Charlie. A nerd, a dork, on the road to brilliance at MIT, unsure of himself as a guy, but sure of himself as a genius who is always right. He doesn’t know much about girls, as his documentation of treating them almost like a science project will reveal (liking touching their neck in a queue at Kirspy Kreme), but he knows about maths and science and he knows literature is a waste of time. He is, in essence, a real dork.
His two and what seems like only friends, are Greta (the one person who beat him in a test) and her boyfriend, James. They both have come to accept him for the dork he is and quite frankly, are dorks themselves who attend Brighton with him - an all maths and science school engineered to lead students to greatness at Ivy League colleges. Greta is unflinchingly honest, loveable, strong, loyal. James is equally all those things, as well as goofy, gentle and hilarious. Together these three seriously had me laughing silently under the covers, bed shaking slightly from my movement.
There was a particular scene, with James and Charlie, that really got me as one of those Hit You In Da Feelz moments. James was meant to be an almost tertiary character, who puts up with Charlie because his girlfriend is friends with him. But no. The author took this character, blasted that scenario out the water and said nope - James is gna like Charlie, because that’s the kinda good guy he is and because once you know Charlie, you love Charlie. Sure, some days it’s harder than normal - but that's friendship.
In this particular scene, in a rare moment of being alone together, James and Charlie are talking. James asks him a question, to why Charlie replies, does it matter?
Here’s an excerpt to bring you up to speed. Read the whole thing okay?
“My nose aches as I wrinkle it. “Does it matter?”
“Let’s do a little experiment to answer that question.” James shifts his weight next to me, and I think it’s to pick up another rock, but instead, his right shoulder crashes into my chest as he shoves me into the creek. I land on my butt in the murky sludge coating the bottom”.
“What the hell was that for?” So much for all that friendship I thought I saw a moment ago.
James levels me with a rare look for him—gravity. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, it matters. It’s cold, and I’m soaked.”
“How much do you like Charlotte? I dare you to tell me it doesn’t matter.”
It’s like the air is being squeezed from my lungs.
“See. It matters. Greta’s here because she’s loyal to you. I’m here for Greta. Why are you here, freezing your nuts off, for Charlotte Finch?”
And it’s there. The answer is there, like it was always part of me. “Because she matters.”
“Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t help this girl, but you should know what you’re getting into. I’m also not saying you really have a choice when it comes to your motives. I get that. No one wants to fall and get hurt.” He steps closer to the creek’s edge. “I’m just saying to prepare for heartache, because it’s always harder to be the one still hanging around.” He reaches a hand out toward me, clasping mine firmly in his and pulling me from the water.
“And know I’ll be here to help pick you up,” he says once we’re both standing on solid ground.
I need to reevaluate. James isn’t just Greta’s boyfriend. James is my other best friend.”
Doesn’t that kinda stuff just warm the cockles of your heart? Where two guys, friends by chance, bonded by choice, just display these emotions without being all cheesy and cringey? The answer on your lips, is yes. It’s wonderful and I love that the author included such a moment, these moments between Charlie and James, moments between Charlie and Greta to truly display what friendship is about, even when there are no words, just actions.
Moving on to Charlie’s little sister - Becca, oh Becca, how I love thee. She’s one of my favourite characters from this book, even though all of them run a close competition for that title. She’s a shadow of Charlie, brilliantly smart with subjects, but not so great with people. Yet she knows about friendship, she knows about loyalty, and how to love. She opens her world up to Charlotte, these two and their bond made me wana weep silently. Wise for her 16 years, she finds comfort in her brother, and lends solace to Charlie when they both need it most.
As for the final character, Charlotte herself, with her ocean blue eyes, long legs, infinity tattoo, and sketchpad - she didn’t hit me as hard as the other characters, but she was wonderful in her own rights. Non-judgmental, artistic, strong, and real. Her display of strength wasn’t an open or clear cut one - but rather subtle in the way that despite everything, she chooses to live the way she wants, fall in love when knowing the outcome, make strong bonds despite the repercussions
- and that’s strength in itself for me. She was great.
The author wove this wonderful story with wonderful characters, and I couldn’t put it down. It was poetic, (without looking like she was trying to hard) it was honest, it was blunt - and such a joy to read, even if it did make you wana die (but in good ways, always good ways). And the humour just tickled me pink. The whole Brighton revolution was seriously just perfect - the way they look up to Charlie, the pranks they orchestrated, and Ms Finch’s reaction to it all.
This book maaaannnn. I mean I knew what was gna happen when I picked this book up. I just knew. And I’ve read so many other books that follow the same path - but this one just kinda started off all funny and crazy and then slowly reached out when it saw how comfortable I was, and grabbed hold of my heart and thought “oh let me just step all over you”. And I loved every single moment of the joy and pain. The title is to apt as well - because we find out that you can plan your life, plan your future, the way Charlie did - but there’s always going to be these unknown variables that barge into your life and change it’s course - or at least your perception of everything around you. *deep sigh*
And like always when I’m head over heels with a book - I’m going to leave behind some of my favourite moments, funniest moments from the book. Read them all. And when you’re done - go and read the whole book.
“Brighton goes through English teachers like Hogwarts devours defence against the dark arts teachers”.
“Well,” she says, “that’s one way to get out of a pop quiz.” She bends over and offers me a hand. My braced arm slips in some puke and I crumple at her feet.
“Mr. Thomas. Please come help Mr. Hanson to the bathroom.” Ms. Finch steps away from me as James tries to figure out the best way to help me up without getting covered in nastiness.
“We’re finally doing this,” James whispers as he drags me out the door, “together.”
“How does he know? Who ratted?” He’s dented the kinky curls on both sides of his head, squeezing it tightly between giant palms, so his head now looks oblong, like an egg.”
“He doesn’t know dick,” Greta says”.
“Who are you talking to, you little bitch?”
Becca untangles her arm and turns to face Mostly-Naked. “To whom are you talking, Derrick No-Dick?” she asks, her lips grim lines of distaste. “My brother and I are here to collect our friend. Can you wrap the only organ in your body smaller than your penis around that fact?”
My little sister. I’m so proud.”
“There’s a can of flamingo-ass paint (not the official name on the can) in her old tool shed”.
“Mrs. Dunwitty, no offence, but I’m pretty sure you’re older than Moses.”
“James stoops beside Greta. “How’s Becca?”
I look away from the two of them. “Dunno. She won’t open the door.”
James nods. “I can fix that,” he says, reaching into Greta’s hair and extracting a bobby pin. He straightens it and pokes it into the little hole in the knob, and then jiggles it until we hear a click.
Greta looks impressed and outraged.
“I live with a house full of drama queens,” he says, shrugging.”