Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
»Annie used to have a funny theory: we all have a Year Zero around which the calendars of our lives pivot. At some point you meet someone, and they become so important, so metamorphic, that ten, twenty, sixty-five years down the line you look back and realize that you could split your existence in two. Before they showed (BCE), and your Common Era. Your very own Gregorian calendar.«
“Love on the Brain” by Ali Hazelwood is – for the time being – my gold standard for romance. It’s the lovechild of romance and nerdiness; it’s The Ultimate Nerdy Romance! Almost every sentence was pure joy to read!
»I will slay a murder of dragons for you.”
– “I looked it up,” Levi says from the doorjamb. “It’s a thunder of dragons.”«
Bee Königswasser meets her arch-nemesis from graduate school, Levi Ward, again when she’s taking up a position as a co-lead with him on a NASA project. She has a lot of good reasons to believe Levi hates her but…
Bee is obsessed with Marie Curie, he’s a guy with a cat named Schrödinger. What could possibly go wrong?
»Wouldn’t you tell yourself that there’s a reason this cluster of shit came about? Saturn ascending to the house of Sagittarius. Not enough lambs sacrificed to the Spaghetti Monster. Bad things come in threes. We’re only humans. We’re full of “whys,” drowning in “whys.” Every once in a while, we need a bit of “because,” and if it’s not readily available, we make it up.«
The answer is simple: Nothing – from the chapter names, e. g. “Raphe nuclei: Happiness” (Raphe nuclei quite literally make you happy!), to the scribble-inspired picture of dots, crosses and circles that lead into every chapter and made me happy on their own, to the intelligent writing, to the opinions expressed (“Anyway, Harry Potter is tainted forever […]”). Ali Hazelwood gets it right on every single level.
She makes liberal use of amusing pop culture references and Hazelwood’s proverbial feather tickles not only my diaphragm but easily surpasses many other books.
»Science, I tell myself in my inner Jeff Goldblum voice, finds a way.«
On the other hand, I felt ashamed for my fellow men when Hazelwood so aptly wrote about women not only in STEM but in my profession, IT (Information Technology), as well:
»As I wait for the crowd to disperse, I take stock of the room. Levi’s team appears to be WurstFest™ material. The well-known Meatwave. A Dicksplosion in the Testosteroven. The good old Brodeo.«
Many, if not, sadly, even most of us, are just like that and I’d like to apologise to every non-male co-worker whom I’ve not supported as I should have in such a situation. I know I could have done better and I promise I’ve been working on improving for years now and will keep trying.
Apart from that, I couldn’t help but relate to Bee in so many aspects… From her fear of spiders…
»“It’s just . . . animals are so cute. Except for spiders. But spiders are not really animals.”«
… to actually thinking about appropriate collective nouns for the most majestic fictitious animals…
»a murder of dragons.”
– “Is that their collective noun?”
“It should be.”«
Hazelwood doesn’t just achieve greatness by appealing to my inner nerd, though, but she has a whole lot of pretty good ideas like the “Year Zero” I quoted at the very beginning. She is deeply sympathetic to both Bee and Levi in all their respective glorious imperfections – from Bee’s annoying assumptions born out of her past experiences to Levi’s inability to actually declare his feelings. I love how natural those two feel.
»“Oh.” I flush as vermillion as a cardinal male at the peak of mating season. My heart thrashes in my chest—also like a cardinal male at the peak of mating season. “Right.”«
It’s not just the primary characters Hazelwood gets right, though: Rocío, Bee’s research assistant, a grumpy goth who falls hard for a blond, bubbly, pink-loving woman, coming fresh from a relationship with a guy and Bee not even blinking an eye…
Annie, her former best friend, Guy… They all feel like real people. It’s just plain great to read about them all.
Even the smallest details…
»Levi and I aren’t going to have a ceremony until this summer. July 26, to be precise.«
… are just plain perfect! (If you’re reading this on Amazon, google “marie curie july 26”, if you’re elsewhere just click here)
This entire book is smart, clever, warm-hearted, intelligent, inclusive, liberal, progressive and all-around brilliant! If you’re even the tiniest bit of a nerd, read it. If you’re into romance, read it.
Easiest and happiest five out five stars this year so far!
Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam
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Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood