The Square Root of Summer
Roaring Brook Press / Raincoast Books
By Harriet Reuter Hapgood
age 13 to 18
Synopsis from Raincoast Books:
Gottie’s heart has been broken three times. One, when her best friend moved away without saying goodbye. Two, when her beloved grandfather died. Three, when her first love wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. As Gottie spirals deeper into grief, her past literally comes back to haunt her when she is inexplicably sent back in time to good memories and bad, revisiting afternoons of kisses and days she wanted to forget forever. This summer, Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide – and she’s the only one who can figure out why.
First off I love the combination of a female lead that is smart, as in math and science smart. Throughout the story Gottie, the girl in question, embraces her intelligence instead of playing it down. The story deals with transition: from high school into thoughts of her future, from life as a family of four to a broken family, from memories of an old friendship to a new romance, from loss to acceptance.
Over the summer Gottie is working on a math theory for her teacher, a theory that evolves and works its way into her actual life. As she confronts the change in her life, her world changes, opening up wormholes to the past. The passages through time help Gottie come to terms with change in her life, creating a realization that she wants to live life in her present, start living life again.
I can’t help but wonder if the wormhole experiences were really occurring or if these were just in her mind, a coping mechanism based on a language Gottie could relate to. Math. The story does a good job dealing with the changes in family dynamic after family member’s death. There’s a blush of a new romance, a relationship between childhood friends Gottie and Thomas, who separated by distance and time, have a chance to reconnect. This relationship is actually expected as you read and at first I was disappointed that Gottie seems to move from one boy to another to feel whole, that she needs “to be rescued”. I do like that this changes near the end, when time resets and Gottie seems to be on a healing path.
The Square Root of summer takes place over the summer holidays but the topics of family and friendship, first loves, grief and fear of change and the future are not season specific. Although the romantic story line is a bit pradictable it feels honest. The idea of time travel and the butterfly affect, a trend it seems with a few recent reads like in Earth & Sky and The Story of You. I always find interesting to theorize over. I enjoyed how this was worked into the story. A lovely, thought provoking read for teens.