I really struggled when deciding whether or not to publish this post, as I don’t like writing negative reviews. If I don’t enjoy a book, generally I won’t review it, but as The Square Root of Summer featured on my Summer Reading List I felt that a review was necessary to show how some of my picks were a good choice and some, less so. Obviously, I eventually decided to go ahead and publish it, after a few lovely people on Twitter encouraged me to, stating that they find honest, negative reviews refreshing.
Read on for why The Square Root of Summer left me thoroughly irritated.
The Square Root of Summer follows Gottie in the summer before her last year in sixth form/school. She is attempting to deal with the upheaval in her life caused by the death of her Grandfather, Grey, and having her heart broken by her brother’s friend after the end of their secret relationship. When her childhood best friend, Thomas, returns to town, Gottie’s life is thrown into chaos, as what she surmises to be wormholes begin to dog her every move. She endeavours to discover why she is experiencing these anomalies, and how they are connected to Thomas and the gaps in her memory surrounding his departure long ago.
Okay, let’s just stop there. We’ve all dealt with grief, we’ve all dealt with heartbreak. They’re horrendous and can have a serious impact on your life, but not in the form of wormholes. I love physics, and I love well-explained sci-fi even more, but this was neither of those things. This was a saccharine wet blanket that effectively doused any interest I had in either the science or the limited development exhibited by Gottie. In my opinion this undermined the real pain that people going through grief and heartbreak experience. The wormholes may be a metaphor for that pain, with Gottie effectively trapped by the past, but I felt that they only needlessly complicated the threadbare plot. Rather than being an honest examination of Gottie and her family’s pain, it became a cringing story of jilted love and idiot ex-boyfriends. I was honestly so frustrated with Gottie as the book progressed. I just wanted to her get up and carry on with life. Perhaps I am insensitive, but I have been in almost exactly her position (minus the wormholes and childhood friend) and you just have to deal with it.
Essentially my problem with The Square Root of Summer was the over-dramatisation of grief and heartbreak, and the lacklustre nature of the main character. She was bland and uninteresting, probably in order to make it easier for the reader to see themselves in her. I actually think this book would have been greatly improved by having another perspective on Gottie’s situation, whether that’s a descent into madness or a genuine experience of a scientific anomaly. She behaves irrationally, so perhaps the perspective of her brother would have given us another direction to consider the story from, rather than the all-consuming self-absorption exhibited by Gottie. In case you can’t tell, I really didn’t like her.
If you’ve read The Square Root of Summer, let me know if you think I’m being too harsh!
Other (far more positive) book reviews: