DNF Review: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Title: Love and Other Unknown Variables
Author: Shannon Lee Alexander
Genre: contemporary, romance
Series: Standalone
Pages: 350
Published: Expected October 7, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 1 out of 5
Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.

The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.

By the time he learns she's ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

Reviewed by Danielle

“I meant how long until you die?

And there we go, after 163 pages of Charlie Hanson being one of the worst people in young adult history, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rarely do I have the “pleasure” of experiencing a character who is such an unmitigated ass, but C-Man takes the lead right out of the gate by conducting “experiments” of touching girls without their permission and acting confused when they respond negatively. He’s just never going to get the hang of women. :(

Chuck is a theoretical mathematics genius at an exclusive private school for the sciences. He’s been planning on attending MIT since he was 9 and he won’t let anything stand in his way of becoming valedictorian, being accepted to his dream school, catching the eye of a great mathematician who will take him under his wing until Charlie wins his first Nobel Prize. And yet, while we’re told all of this, the only schooling we ever see is Charlie purposely sabotaging his English class, because books and literature are for plebeians. Wouldn’t such a driven and ambitious character try his best in every class to ensure his place as the top student?

The school has a reputation for poor English grades and driving off any teacher foolish enough to try and teach it to them. This year, the poor lamb lead to slaughter is Ms. Finch, an unorthodox young woman who reads the class novels, just for the fun of it, and takes them outside to view the world in a different way. O Captain! My Captain! Sorry, wrong piece of media. Despite trying to engage with the students on a mathematical level, Chuck’s BFF, James, launches a full scale bullying attack on her, which Charlie, reluctantly at first, supports and escalates.

It’s not just his teacher Charlie bullies. He’s rude to his friends, to the point where it’s an ongoing “joke” that he never apologizes. He admits that he doesn’t remember he has a sister unless she’s right in front of him. He runs over Mrs. Dunwitty’s flower garden and is forced to do yard work for her to make up for it. He’s openly hostile and refers to her as Mrs. Dimwit, because…? (He does HAVE parents, unlike James and the Love Interest, but they’re in perhaps two scenes, so I have no idea how he treats them. We have a serious case of missing adults in this book.) This isn’t “genius with no social skills”; this is full on asshole.

The love interest is Charlotte, an enigmatic and moody young woman with hope tattooed on her neck and feathers drawn on her shoes and fingertips smudged with charcoal, who just so happens to be the English teacher’s sister. Charlie is obsessed with her from the second he sees the back of her neck. I have no idea how Charlotte feels; she doesn’t get a point of view.

Not every love interest who changes a character’s life is a manic pixie dream girl, but Charlotte is. She spends all of her time at Charlie’s house, ostensibly because she’s lab partners with his sister, but really to teach him the joy of old musicals, abstract art, and taking risks. I chose to DNF when her secret was revealed, because it’s extremely derivative of another MPDG romance by a certain “savior of young adult” that just became a movie. I also found it completely out of place, because the foreshadowing suggested she was mentally ill, possibly suicidal, not dying of cancer.

I hate this book too much to try to finish it. I’m completely baffled at who the audience for a book about hating books is supposed to be, and how I can possibly root for, or fall in love with, this main character. Again, I did stop just shy of the halfway point and you may find the end redeems the beginning, but I don’t recommend trying it to find out.


  1. Ouch, harsh. I totally get the "Genius with no social skills" set-up... It kind of describes my life, honestly. But it sounds like this one went completely overboard. No social skills != purposefully rude. Ah well, time spent on better books is time better spent.

    Also, that cover? *twitch*. Pi is *not* a variable, or even remotely unknown. And it only vaguely looks like the letter n. And hello there, random square root of... AVI?

    1. I like the "genius with no social skills" set up too, which is why I requested the ARC. But it works when both partners teach each other things and treat each other with respect, even if it's awkward. I sadly never got anything like that.

      The cover's kind of cute even if it doesn't make sense, but I prefer this one's math meets doodles: https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1380940766l/18207105.jpg

  2. Oh-this doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Sorry it didn't work for you at all! Probably good to DNF if it's that painful. Hoping your next read is much better

    1. Thank Kristen. I tried to push through, but Jessie convinced me that 50% was more than enough chances. I'm MUCH happier with my current read!


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