Book Review: Love and Other Theories
By: Alexis Bass
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: December 31, 2014
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I have been anxious to read this one since we featured the cover reveal a few months ago. I was hoping this would be a contemporary romance with a little bit of an edge to it. I was shocked to find that this was more of a lemon than lemonade. Rather than a novel of sweetness laced with just a hint of sour, this novel kept pouring on the bitterness. After finishing around 20% of the novel, I wasn't sure I could keep reading. I found the characters to be distasteful and the hints of sweetness were nowhere to be found. That didn't make this a bad novel, but it did make it difficult for me to read at times. I kept reading hoping that somehow Aubrey would find a way to redeem herself. This novel was all over the place for me: I loved some parts while I loathed others. If you're looking for a typical YA contemporary romance, this is not the read for you, but if you're okay with something a bit darker, then I suggest diving in.
If you're looking for a novel littered with antiheroes, then this is the read for you. The main character, Aubrey, is on the cusp of finishing her Senior year and heading off to college. Everything in her life is about to change, but stubbornly she and her friends hold tight to their "theories". These theories were created earlier in high school among the foursome to help them tackle dating without the hassle or the heartbreak. The girls call themselves "evolved" and they keep track of girl points. They don't want to be those girls in high school who crave a boyfriend. Aubrey and her friends were the sort of girls I avoided in high school. These are the true mean girls who never have a smile or a kind word for those outside of their clique and half the time they have nothing but snide remarks for those they call friends. These girls also pass around guys like a pack of chewing gum. I found their attitudes and perceptions to be off putting.
There was one redeemable character in the beginning, Nathan, but he is soon sucked into these insipid theories and quickly slides downhill. His fall was a bitter pill to swallow - mainly because I didn't understand it. I was angry and felt betrayed. I also realize that his experience is the norm for some high school guys, but there are plenty out there who do not act this way. I didn't like that there were few positive male characters in this one.
I think the hardest thing about this one for me was not liking Aubrey for 80% of the novel. I kept reading and hoping that at some point I would start rooting for her. I don't think I ever got to a point where I liked her, but I did find myself on her side towards the end. She learns a hard lesson and I couldn't help but feel bad about it.
In many ways, this novel was depressing. I just can't imagine going through high school (or life for that matter) following these theories. They allow people to use you like a kleenex - keeping you around while you are useful and then dumping you in the trash. I didn't like that Aubrey and her friends looked down on other people for allowing themselves to feel something for another person. Their judgmental attitudes irked me on more than one occasion. If anything, this novel reminded me why I would never go back to high school if given the chance to travel back in time.
I did find that the brightest spot in this novel for me was the relationship between Aubrey and Trip. These were the moments when I actually started to like Aubrey. She wasn't trying to be an ice princess with Trip. She left her guard down and as such became more down to earth. Trip helps her understand that being vulnerable to experiences does not make one weak.
I'm sure that will be many people who love this one. It was different to get the story from the perspective of one of the mean girls as she learns some lessons about life and love. The writing is also solid in this one, but overall I just couldn't get over my distaste for the characters in order to find this one as an enjoyable read. There were glimmers, but ultimately this one did not live up to my expectations. I wasn't the sort of reader this story needed. I do feel that there is merit here in spite of my reaction to the content. There are some readers who will bond with Aubrey more easily than I did. My rating reflects the balance between my frustration and enjoyment.
It also should be noted that this is not a novel I would recommend to younger teens. There is far too much cursing, intimacy, and teen drinking.
One Last Gripe: I don't understand why Aubrey was friends with Shelby in the first place.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: As frustrated as Aubrey made me, I did enjoy watching her growth process. It was painful at times, but in the end, I think she became more of a person I wanted to know and understand. Aubrey leaves the reader as a mature young woman with a bright future. That is certainly not how we started our journey together.
First Sentence: There's one major reason I'm ready to be done with high school and it's culminating now, the first day back from winter break, in Senior Drama.
Favorite Character: Trip
Least Favorite Character: Shelby
Love and Other Theories is a fast-paced twist on the coming-of-age novel . . . and the romantic comedy.
Aubrey and her best friends made a pact to play by the guys' rules when it comes to dating. They're hoping the rules will keep them from experiencing high school heartbreak--they don't realize that these rules could just as easily keep them from opening their hearts and minds. And when new boy Nathan Diggs moves to town, Aubrey starts to think that some rules are meant to be broken.
With equal parts bite and romance, topped off with an irresistibly engaging voice, Alexis Bass's debut novel is one you won't want to miss.