Academic Romance Is My New Favorite Book Genre After Reading This Debut Novel

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If you told me that my favorite book of 2021 would end up being about two fake-dating scientists whose characters are loosely based on Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars, I would not have believed you. Fake dating isn't my favorite trope, science was my worst school subject, and while I've always enjoyed watching Star Wars, I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan. But that was before I read The Love Hypothesis (out Sept. 14) by Ali Hazelwood.

In the novel, Olive Smith is a biology PhD student who is on a mission to convince her best friend that she's in a relationship. Considering she's definitely single, and worried that her friend will learn the truth, Olive randomly panic-kisses the first man she comes across in the lab — who just so happens to be the notoriously intimidating Dr. Adam Carlsen, a professor in her department. Nobody is more surprised than Olive when Adam agrees to go along with her charade. But how long can Olive keep up the ruse of fake dating when real feelings become involved?

I have a thing for love stories in which the guy has harbored a years-long crush on the girl while she remains endearingly clueless (don't worry, I'm not giving anything away — it's pretty obvious from the start how Adam feels about Olive), and so I knew by Olive and Adam's second interaction that I would LOVE this book. Olive is smart, ambitious, and funny, Adam is tender and thoughtful, and together their connection is pure slow-burning gold with lots of chemistry (both the literal and figurative kind).

Their connection is pure slow-burning gold with lots of chemistry (both the literal and figurative kind).

This is Hazelwood's debut novel, but she's been writing fan fiction for years. I read that this book was actually based on a previous, and hugely popular, Star Wars fan fiction story she wrote a few years ago. So if you're a Rey and Kylo Ren stan, you should probably read this book. I mean, just look at the cover!

Standout Quote

"His eyes were on her, now. There was light in them that she didn't understand. 'You are not mediocre, Olive. . . And the work you presented is important, rigorous, and brilliant.' He took a deep breath. His shoulders rose and fell in time with the thudding of her heart. 'I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.'"


Get ready to dive into all things academia: the politics, the research, the nerdy banter. It's like a world of its own and reminded me a little of my own college days. This book has some funny antics but doesn't shy away from diving into the more serious side of academia (including sexual harassment).

Where You Should Read It

Snuggled up at a student cafe with a pumpkin spice latte (Olive's drink of choice).

Read This If You Like . . .

Rey and Kylo Ren fanfic, romance stories set in academia like How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams, or a fake-dating trope.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Prompt(s)

This novel can check off more than one 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt; just pick the one that fits best for you.

  • A book that's published in 2021
  • A book about a subject you are passionate about
  • A book you think your best friend would like

How Long It Takes to Read

The story is 360 pages long, and I read it every spare second I could over a weekend — and then immediately started over again when I finished since I didn't want it to end.

Give This Book to . . .

Friends who love Star Wars or smart and science-y love stories, who work in STEM, or who have ever fantasized about dating that really hot professor from college.

The Sweet Spot Summary

The Love Hypothesis ($14) follows Olive, a PhD student, who fake dates the one professor her peers love to hate: the intimidating (and intimidatingly hot) Dr. Adam Carlsen. She doesn't really believe in love, but if there's anyone who can convince her, it just might be Adam.

Emoji Rating

👩‍🔬 + 👨‍🔬 + 🔬 + 🔥