When I first heard about The Square Root of Summer, I was fascinated by the whole concept of this story, and really, really eager to get into it. A childhood friend coming back? A mix between past and present? Two of my favorite things ever combined in this story, plus, that cover is gorgeous. I couldn’t resist.
PAST, PRESENT, AND THE WORLD IN-BETWEEN
“ But perhaps it’s that Grey is dead. It still feels like the moon fell out of the sky.”
It’s been almost a year since Margot lost her grandfather Grey, got her heart broken by Jason the musician and best friends’ with her brother. It’s been years and years that her best friend Thomas, the guy next door, left for Canada (here, we are in lovely England, countryside, YES PLEASE). The past left behind has a way to come back though, and in the strangest of places, in the strangest ways…when one day, Margot a.k.a Gottie (don’t ask me why, this sounds a bit weird. Or is it just me?) stumbles into the past. Literally. Head first into a wormhole, where she revisits events in her past, while time is still passing by in the real world. You’re still here? Let me make this maybe a bit clearer: she stumbles into the past, relives one moment that happened in the past. Meanwhile, present Gottie is still here, keeps on living. But we, as a reader, don’t see the present: we re-live the past with her. Basically, we read flashbacks. Hours later, sometimes even days later, Gottie comes back from this weird flashbacks, completely confused, disoriented, losing time in the past but also losing her time in the present, since she is not actually living it. Does that make sense? Yeah. It’s all kinds of complicated, and I think that’s one of the reasons I couldn’t enjoy this book fully: because I was as lost as Gottie is. Half lost in her past, half lost in the present, and me in between, confused eyes while reading this story.
AN AMBITIOUS STORY, BUT A BIT TOO TECHNICAL FOR ME
“ The Uncertainty Principle states that you can know where a particle is, or you can know where it’s going, but you can’t know both at the same time. The same, it turns out, is true of people. And when you try, when you look too closely, you get the Observer Effect. By trying to work out what’s going on, you’re interfering with destiny. A particle can be in two places at once. A particle can interfere with its own past. It can have multiple futures, and multiple pasts. The universe is complicated.”
I think the main issue here doesn’t have to deal with the idea behind this story. Really, if you ask me, the idea is brilliant. As a huge fan of flashbacks in stories, I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of her past, see what happened before between the characters and how their relationships are affected now. My problem was that the story was getting a bit too technical for my taste. See, Gottie is a maths and physics nerd, and she is trying to work out what really is happening to her. Because she believes she is not losing her mind, and physicians theories, a bit of maths, graphics and calculations might allow her to understand why and how the time just rips off her hands like that. While we are following the story, we are also following Gottie as she is trying to understand this whole mess. Reading books, drawing little schemes of space and time and wormholes where past and present collide. That technical part of the book was certainly an ambitious choice, because the author chose not to let this book go into some sort of magical realism, and instead be based on science and theories explained, grounded on real physicians and actual theories (from what little I know and how it felt while reading the story). I admire ambition, but… I’m not the biggest friends with maths and theories, and all of these things kind of slowed down my reading, and just left me here staring into space, CONFUSED.
“ But I like sleepy. I like nothing-ever-happens. I buy the same chocolate bar from the same shop every day, next to our village pond with its minimalist duck population of three, and then I check the Holksea village newsletter with no news in it. It’s comforting. I can wrap my whole life up in a blanket.”
Despite the confusion of it all, I could enjoy this story because the characters were overwhelmingly adorable. This story wasn’t plot-driven, if you ask me. We are just following Gottie trying to get over her past, her grief, her broken heart and her struggles, and move on. As the main character, Gottie was…well, she was mainly confused about everything and everyone around her. But this was not something that annoyed me, as it might have in other stories. She’s struggling to figure out how she feels, which way she should go, and I could relate to her, even if sometimes she felt a bit disconnected from everything. I loved that she was surrounded by her family during the whole story, and that each of them had their own struggles, and their thing. Her brothers’ thing is music, her father owns a bookshop, and this was all just sweet. Another great thing was: they live in England, but are from Germany, and we have every now and then actual German words in the story, which was both amusing – as I learned the language, yet was thankful for all the little translations haha -, and realistic. And Thomas. The adorable childhood friend suddenly coming back was my favorite of the whole story. He’s sweet, caring, and he BAKES, what more can you ask for, really?
“Faced with a choice between this–stopping time, making my world so small I can wrap my life up in a blanket–and smashing my heart to pieces, well. Pass me the hammer.”
One of the most interesting things about this story, was the friendships building, growing back again. After her grandfather’s death, Gottie kind of grew apart from her female best friend, and we can definitely see in the story how long-time friendships can subtly, day by day, change, to the point that you’re almost strangers to each other. (Yeah. Speaking by experience. Can you tell?) It was actually GOOD to see that kind of friendship portrayed in a book, and how two people growing apart try to grow back together again. The slowly re-building of friendship with Thomas happens as well, if a little faster than the other, but it still was great to see each other getting together, growing feelings, and…just, FEELINGS.
The Square Root of Summer is an ambitious story, but kind of lost me with all the technicalities. The characters, the friendships and family stories got to me, however, and the writing was beautiful and engaging, keeping me turning the pages despite the obscure maths. A solid contemporary about dealing with grief, and finding yourself again.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Did you read The Square Root Of Summer? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it?
What’s the most confusing book you’ve ever read?! Share your thoughts in comments!
Harriet Reuter Hapgood, The Square Root of Summer, Published by Roaring Brook Press, May 3rd 2016.
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.