Review: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Published: May 3rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Science Fiction
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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. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
The Square Root of Summer was a selection for my book club, and there was a bit of time between when I read it and writing this review. Sometimes, a bit of time causes me to think more fondly of a book, and rate it slightly higher than I might have when I first finished it, perhaps because it has been on my mind a lot during that time, or for any other reason. Other times, when time passes before I write the review, it doesn’t fare so well on my thoughts of the book. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been on The Square Root of Summer‘s side.
I really liked the idea of The Square Root of Summer. Worm holes opening up all over a small town? Let me at that book! But what I remember now, a few months after reading it, is a lot more contemporary than science fiction. Or at least, more contemporary than I thought there was going to be. And the science fiction that was there was confusing, because we never really knew what was real and what wasn’t. Was she really going through wormholes? I don’t know. I think she was, but it was never really confirmed. And what’s this “sweeping romance” that the synopsis talks about? I remember her pining for her old boyfriend and then her old best friend being there, too, but other than that, I mostly remember a lot of science that doesn’t seem to add up. There was one theory I had that would have really been cool and it would have cleared up a lot of the questions about the science, but instead, we’re left with no answers.
I remember Grey being a pretty cool character. He owned a book shop and looked like Gandalf, so that’s pretty cool. And I wrote down several different quotes in my notes, so I enjoyed the writing. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much more than that. If it wasn’t for my notes, I wouldn’t have even remembered that much. And looking at my notes, I guess I enjoyed the romance aspect of the book, but again, I really can’t remember much about it.
Harriet Reuter Hapgood does get a lot of my Bonus Points for the following reasons:
- The Lord of the Rings reference (25, 000 points)
- The Wizard of Oz reference (50,000 points)
- Multiple Narnia references (25,000 points)
- Harry Potter reference (50,000 points)
- Back to the Future reference (15,000 points)
- Grey wanted to have a Viking burial. Me too, Grey. Me too.* (1,000,000 points)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference (15,000 points)
- Star Wars reference (50,000 points)
- Jurassic Park reference (15,000 points)
Overall I just found The Square Root of Summer pretty confusing, and it didn’t feel like there was any closure at the end, nor did it feel like the science was explained sufficiently, or even at all. The prose was well-written and it had many aspects that I love in books, like all the pop culture references, but unfortunately, this book just missed the mark for me.
*Yes, I know that those Viking burials where they set you out to sea in a long boat and shoot an arrow at your corpse is highly illegal and probably didn’t actually happen. But it’s still a nice dream.