The Square Root of Summer, by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, for TImeslip Tuesday

For those of us for whom summer feels faintly unreal, with its langerous heat and the disaloution of the routines of the school year, and all the work that needs doing outside, here's a romantic timeslip story of in which reality does indeed become unraveled. The Square Root of Summer, by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (Roaring Brook Press 2016), is a story of a teenaged girl's grief and growing-up, the wormholes that are moving her back and for from her past to her present, and her efforts to understand what's happening through math and introspection.

 Last summer, Gottie (short for Margot) lost her grandfather, the cornerstone of her family. Before that, she lost her childhood soulmate, Thomas, when he moved away and left her with a hole in her memory. After that, she lost her heart to her older brother's friend Jason, who ended up dumping her. Now Thomas and Jason are both back in her life, but she is unsure of where her heart stands in relationship to them. And her bottled-up unhappiness and uncertainty is pushing her away from her best friend Sophia.

When wormholes to her past start opening up in front of Gottie, the cork to her bottled-up feelings is popped. And as she revisits her past, though she's mostly just a spectator, things change. Some seem like changes of the better--chance to fix mistakes. Other changes seem disastrous. Gottie, fascinated by theoretical physics, tries to make mathematical sense of what the universe is doing around her, but instead finds both the math, and her forced introspection, starting to make more sense of her own life and choices. And so in the end she comes to the point of being able to hold on to real love, while still mourning what has been lost. I loved Margot's fascination with math. It didn't made mathematical sense to me, but since I figured it wouldn't I didn't try hard; on the other hand, I liked reading the math, and it did work for me as metaphor (although almost everything works for me as metaphor...). I liked the way the time slips played out, forcing Gottie to look at her past choices and how they continue to play out. I wasn't quite convinced that her grief was sufficient catalyst for it all to happen, as us readers are led to believe, but whatever (catalyst shmatalyst, as long as it's a good story). And I'm never really a fan of childhood best beloved friend morphing into true love, but again, it worked for the story. I was somewhat thrown off at first by Americanisms; in a book by an English author set in England I don't expect to find college, kindergarten, and Jello....but the Americanisms only caught my eye the first part of the book, as if some Anglo-averse editor lost interest, because "jumper" instead of sweater, for instance, appeared later on...On the other hand, it's been thirty years since I lived in England, and so maybe they do say college to mean university more commonly these days. Short answer--not my favorite time slip YA, but a pleasant romantic story with interesting time slip physics.

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