The Square Root of Summer: A Book Review

Hi friends!

The weekend’s almost here! Any fun plans? I myself have an exciting few days in store: I’m taking a day trip to NYC and then have my job training – scooping ice cream! :) – on Sunday. Before the week comes to a close, however, I wanted to share a book review of what I consider one of this year’s hidden gems: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood. My full thoughts are below if you want to take a peek!

The Square Root of SummerTitle: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published: May 3, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 295
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: I don’t believe so!

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. {Goodreads}

My friends were surprised this past year when I took such a liking to physics, and, frankly, so was I; I’ve never been much of a science person – I lost interest in biology, and chemistry wasn’t my cup of tea – and I will happily work through math problems over sitting through a lab. Physics, on the other hand, works to the bigger picture, applying math, science, and philosophy to answer one question: how does the universe work? It’s by no means an easy inquiry, but it’s one I don’t mind delving into.

Gottie, the main character in Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s debut, The Square Root of Summer, too has an interest in physics. She’s a sharp mathematician, quick to grasp complex concepts in the classroom that would otherwise take days to explain. and she has an acute understanding of the universe, even if she has a muddled view of her own life, significantly changed since her grandfather’s death. Needless to say, a story is nothing without a good protagonist, and fortunately, Hapgood delivers: Gottie is well-crafted and has a distinctive voice. In addition, her journey reads natural, growth found in Gottie’s friendships, her love interests, and her confidence. The supporting characters receive equal care in characterization. Her father and brother, both absent-minded in their own right, are also protective. Thomas, childhood friend and aspiring baker, is caring and thoughtful. Even her grandfather, a figure of the past, has a personality that jumps off the page.

As you’d expect, things get interesting when wormholes appear, and Gottie, for whatever reason, is transported back in time to previous summers. It’s an interesting, and ultimately effective, take on grief: a void in the heart, so Gottie travels through a void in the universe. The explanation of Gottie’s time travel is one of the book’s assets – I have yet to see a novel, even my favorite time travel romance, Time Between Us, go to such lengths to explain the science behind the phenomenon – but it’s also, I believe, the book’s primary problem. The latter half of the novel is so dominated with details that readers are easily lifted from the story and focus is pulled from the growing relationship between Gottie and Thomas. It wasn’t enough to deter me from finishing the book {I was too lost in the setting for that!}, but between the meandering plot and mathematical concepts, I can see where other readers may find fault.

The narrative is supplemented by Hapgood’s sense of atmosphere, as she whisks readers away to the English seaside where Gottie lives with her dad and brother. Her writing so beautifully captures sleepy summer afternoons and nights that if I could bottle up book passages to revisit, I’d take the entirety of the book in a second. It has a timeless quality reminiscent of the classics – many written before modern technology was born – but Hapgood still manages to keeps today’s audience engaged, myself included, with her literary prose.

The Square Root of Summer is a science fiction fix for the contemporary fan or the contemporary read for a science fiction audience – if you haven’t guessed already, it’s hard to sum up. But if one strips away the scientific elements and the travels back in time, the audience is left with a story that tackles love and grief, feelings central to the human experience, and certainly in one’s teenage years. What flaws exist can be overlooked given the quality of the characters and the setting, and furthermore, I believe Hapgood will only grow as an author in her next publication. With several weeks of summer left, you can guess what I have to say: this deserves a spot in your reading pile.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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7 thoughts on “The Square Root of Summer: A Book Review

  1. Every single review I’ve read on this has said the same thing that you did: that it’s a good book, but really heavy on the science / math. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much though, despite the minor flaws. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems to be the general consensus! I can’t wait to see what else Hapgood publishes though – I have a feeling her writing will only grow and improve from here. And thank you for stopping by! :)

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  2. Hey Bella!

    I’ve been avoiding contemporary as much as possible lately (I went through a major contemporary binge earlier this year…and got kinda burt out lol) BUT the promise that this book is also part sci-fy? I’m most certainly intrigued.

    I personally am a huge fan of detailed oriented books but am curious if the math heavy aspect of this novel would be too much even for me. It’s enough to tempt me to try it out though. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I feel you! I’m trying to read a greater variety of genres, but I’m truly a contemporary fan through and through haha. The math details are a lot, but I don’t think they’re too much to stop you from enjoying it. And same to you – have a wonderful week! 😊💞

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