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).
Design – Kelley York
The title treatment is really nicely done but I’m not a big fan of the font or the photo. There’s just something that doesn’t work between the title and the background. I think the intention was that the black and white photo would make the title stand out, but the giant sun flare doesn’t help. The contrast of the photo is too high to let the title stand out. I’m not a fan of the cutesy all-caps font, especially the strange E. This cover might be really nice on a less busy black background.
Love and Other Unknown Variables is a quick read about Charlie, an intelligent math-lover who falls for the daughter of his new English teacher. Charlie is incredibly awkward, especially about girls. I found the secondary characters to be much more interesting than Charlie, who seemed a lot younger than a high school senior. This story focuses on the war against English teacher Ms. Finch for awhile, but is ultimately about Charlotte’s cancer.
- Greta – It’s refreshing for a main character to have a best friend of the opposite sex whom they have never been romantically interested in. Even though Charlie has become great friends with Greta’s boyfriend, James, he still worries that he’s a third wheel. Greta is smart and always frankly honest with Charlie. She doesn’t want Charlie to get hurt and she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.
- Charlotte – Charlotte wants to be treated like everyone else, meaning that she keeps her illness a secret as long as she can from her friends. She wants her sister, Ms. Finch, to stop hovering and worrying over her so that she can just be a teenager and enjoy life as much as she can. Charlotte deals pretty well with the illness, never whining about it or asking anyone to treat her specially, and she doesn’t break down often. Charlotte’s an interesting girl who knows what she wants and she brings out the less serious side of Charlie. Even though her sister’s hovering bothers her, Charlotte makes sure Ms. Finch is never overly stressed out by the class’ war against her.
- Charlie’s innocence – Charlotte is the first girl that Charlie has ever been interested in. This is extremely awkward to read about because it makes it seem like Charlie is much younger than he really is. He thinks and acts like a 13 or 14-year-old going through puberty. This is a seriously cliched way to characterize someone who goes to a math and science based high school. Intelligent people can be interested in the opposite sex too.
- cancer/illness – So, Charlotte is sick. The thing about books with sick characters is that the end is always the sad end, whether it’s the main character or someone else who dies. It’s like an unwritten rule of YA that your illness book ends badly. The only exceptions are the books where someone recovers and then has to deal with shitty things they did when they thought they were dying.
- English teacher wars – It’s never really explained why Charlie is looked to as the leader of the war against Ms. Finch, especially since James is the one who’s so enthusiastic about it. I don’t understand how every single other student in the class goes along with it either. They’re seniors. Super serious about school seniors. Realistically, at least one person would resist waging war against a teacher, no matter the subject they teach.
I’ve spent today deflecting James’ repeated pleas for me to join forces with him to start the war against the English teacher.
In computer programming, he gave a moving speech about brotherhood and camaraderie. He spoke of the oncoming tide of literature, and how we could stand by and be crushed by it or rise up and defeat it. He even tossed in a ‘Semper Fi.’
– Charlie Loc. 269
“Plus, I kissed her,” I say into the carpet.
Greta falls forward from the chair onto her knees in front of me. “You what?”
“Friday. On the couch. Watching movies.”
Greta pauses long enough that I peek at her. I see the moment she swallows whatever other reservations she has and decides to be on my team, even if we’re going to lose.
– Charlie + Greta Loc. 2620
Acquired: bought (ebook)