Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Love And Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

Charlie is a nerd.  He goes to a special STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) school called Brighton and is the second-best student in his class.  The only person brighter than him?  His best friend, Greta.  He hangs out mostly with her and her boyfriend James.  Until this year, that is.  When he is in line for a coffee before school and sees a girl with a confuddling tattoo on her neck.  It's an infiniti sign with the word "hope" worked into it.  He reaches out, brushes her hair aside, and touches it.  See, I told you.  Nerd.

What ensues, is a crazy love story with a quirky protagonist with whom you will just fall in love.  There's an equally quirky girl for him to fall for, a lot of tension and conflict, and a plot that while predictable, is still enjoyable.  I have seen this compared to The Fault In Our Stars so many times.  It's not that.  It's a different animal altogether, which explores different themes and different nuances of relationships.  But, there is a character that is terminally sick with cancer, so some people lump all cancer fiction together, I guess.

This book though?  It's about life after cancer.  Life after it claims someone you love.  Being brave enough to fall in love even though you know it will end badly.  Learning how to move on from someone once they've lost their battle.  And while I found this exploration valiant and very real, I had a very hard time with it.  You all know by now that I'm going through chemotherapy myself after having some cancer removed from my body.  I was devouring this book until I found out that the illness was cancer.  In the end though,  I loved these characters, these rare gems of characters, and that's what took me through to the end.  Also?  The parallels between this and To Kill A Mockinbird?  Not subtle.  You'll be hard pressed to miss them.

Lastly, a little tip.  Pay attention to the way the chapters are numbered.  It is probably my favorite part.