Review Blog

Jun 27 2016

The square root of summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

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Macmillan 2016. ISBN 9781509808281
(Age: Adolescent) Grief. Love. Quantum physics. Time travel. Family. Gottie's mother died when she was born and she lives with her German Dad and older brother, uni student Ned, in a small seaside village in Norfolk. Her charismatic grandfather, Grey, had been the one to hold the family together until his sudden death and 17 year old Gottie has found it difficult to adjust, becoming withdrawn and isolated. '...ever since the day Grey died, talking exposes me. As though I'm the opposite of invisible but everyone can see right through me' For Grottie maths and physics offer answers to fundamental questions she has about the world and she starts to research spacetime, black holes, and wormholes for a pre-university essay suggested by her teacher. Trying to figure out quantum physics combined with a wish to wind back time to before her grandfather died starts to have some disconcerting effects. In revisiting last summer she gradually puts together a new perspective on the events, including falling in love and having sex with her brother's best friend Jason who rejected her when she needed him most after Grey's death. Working through her memories, reconnecting with her friend Sof and the reappearance of her childhood best friend Thomas who has been living in Canada, helps her to properly grieve, to fall in love again and to grow closer to her family. The narrative weaves together past events and alternate realities which can be confusing but Gottie's relationship with the other characters builds continuity and ultimately it all seems to fall into place organically resolving a complex story of grief, growth and love. Essentially a first love romance, it will appeal to adolescent girls looking for a bit more complexity. Marisha Pessl's Special topics in calamity physics has similar appeal.
Sue Speck

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