Title: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published by: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: 2nd July 2015
Pages: 272, paperback
Genre: YA, romance
‘My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . .’
Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason left her – the boy to whom she lost her virginity (and her heart) – and he wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral! This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .
During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.
I’ve been itching to get around to this book for literally months. Love, angst and just a little bit of time travel – what’s not to love? By the time I started reading The Square Root of Summer, it was November, so completely the wrong season, but that wasn’t going to stop me.
There were a number of things I loved about this book. Firstly, I think this is the first YA book I’ve read where the protagonist was female, and had a passion for physics. There’s nothing wrong with English, art, drama and all of those more creative subjects, but I thought it made for a refreshing change to see a teenage girl pursuing a STEM subject in a novel. It also made her a fantastic role model to teenage readers, especially girls, in terms of encouraging girls to take up STEM subjects.
In general, I found Gottie to be a brilliant protagonist. By ‘brilliant’, I don’t mean perfect; she was definitely flawed. She treated her family and friends terribly at times, and was entirely wrapped up in her own grief, but that meant there was plenty of room for character development – and Harriet Reuter Hapgood definitely delivered. By the end of the novel, I felt Gottie had grown and matured as a person, and was actively working to improve her relationships with the people around her. And it didn’t feel forced at all – Gottie’s character arc seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
I thought the relationship between Gottie and Thomas was portrayed strongly, with an interesting, engaging dynamic. Surprisingly, I felt the same about her relationship with Grey, despite the fact we only saw snippets of it through flashbacks and Gottie’s inner monologue. Honestly, for a lot of the novel I found the other character relationships weak in comparison, and not as well developed. However, by the end of the book, these were resolved, and it became clear to me that we were simply seeing people through Gottie’s jaded perspective.
This story had a gripping, layered plot that was tied together by a brilliant physics theory (that, to be honest, I didn’t completely understand, but I still experienced the satisfaction of solving the theory through Gottie’s mind). In this novel, we saw the world through Gottie’s eyes as she struggled to reconnect with her loved ones after her grandfather’s death. She was in touch with her feelings, sure of who she was and what she was entitled to feel, and as a result the book flowed in a way that kept my eyes glued to the page. I would 100% recommend this book, even if you think the physics of it will go completely over your head!