Saturday, June 18, 2016

What we're reading: Quantum physics and romance

The Square Root of Summer
by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Realistic fiction / magical realism?
295 pages
8th grade up?

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. The universe around her is beginning to fray, and fuzzy spots in her line of sight turn into wormholes that pull her back to points in her past. Some trips (or are they visions? hallucinations?) are welcome--her beloved grandfather, who died last year, is still alive. Her best friend, Thomas, hasn't yet moved away and lost touch. Her boyfriend, Jason, hasn't yet rejected her. But some are not so welcome, and all are confusing. This summer, her grandfather is still gone, but Thomas is back, Jason is still an idiot, and her past, present, and even her future are about to mash up. Time travel, quantum physics, and romance are an interesting mix...

I didn't review this book for a while after I read it, because I wasn't sure what to say. The premise is so interesting, I liked the math (and thought there should be more about that, and I'm not even a math person!), and the writing and characters are well expressed. So the book was good...but it was also confusing, frustrating, and unclear. For a large part of it, I wasn't sure if the time paradoxes and such were real, or products of her imagination, or symptoms of serious mental illness! Honestly, I didn't get clear on that until the third chapter from the end of the book, which makes this a baffling read in the meantime.

The thing that bothered me most about this story was when she disappears into a black hole or fuzzes out, then snaps out of it only to discover that time has passed, she's in a different place, or things are happening around her, and she has no idea what/when/why, but:

A. No one seems to notice she's been "gone" because she is apparently still there, somehow? acting however they would expect her to act; and

B. Since the book is all told from first person perspective, you NEVER find out what the other people were seeing/experiencing while she was "gone"!

So...she's having a conversation with Thomas, she's suddenly swallowed by the fuzzy black hole in the corner of the room, and she comes back to find the conversation is still going on, and Thomas is laughing, presumably at something she said? but what was it? C'mon.

I did like it when I eventually figured things out, but it took a little too long. So I can't give this book top marks, but it was intriguing, and you might give it the benefit of the doubt if you like math, quantum physics, romance, time travel (?), or any combination of those. Also, i
f you are of German ancestry or simply have an affinity for the German language, you will probably enjoy all the expressions interspersed into the narrative. Since there seem to be a lot more books out there with expressions from the romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian) used as accent, that's an uncommon feature.

A three out of five stars from me.




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