“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.”
Margot (Gottie) H. Oppenheimer is 17 when she starts to realize her life is different from those around her. She has always been a math genius and her interest is piqued in physics, especially when it comes to time travel. However, she struggles with grief over her lost mother, her best friend who deserted her without reason, and her grandfather’s death. With a new summer on the horizon, Gottie is about to discover how the past, present, and future coincide as she learns about herself and the world around her.
Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s debut novel, The Square Root of Summer, is different from most young adult novels. The main character is a genius, and unapologetically so. She easily gets lost in her own equations and pursuit of knowledge.
This book required a ton of research on Hapgood’s part. Not only were there diagrams, but there were equations that showed an understanding of physics – something usually not covered in young adult books. There is also an allusion to Julius Robert Oppenheimer, one of the creators of the atomic bomb, in the main character’s last name. In addition to science, Hapgood incorporates basic German to highlight a different culture. Although I appreciate the work, creativity, and genius that went into this book, it did not strike my fancy.
I found the characters distant and hard to like. I was unable to connect with them, which often made the pages drag. There was very little action besides traveling between moments from different time periods. Although there was character development, it took too long to intrigue me as a reader. Gottie is also an unreliable narrator at times, which can lead to confusion, since the story is told from her perspective.
On the other hand, this is an empowering story of a girl in a STEM field, which is underrepresented in the media. Although The Square Root of Summer wasn’t my favorite book, I appreciated its value.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.