Love on the Brain Book Review: Synopsis
When Ali Hazelwood released her smash hit debut novel “The Love Hypothesis” in 2021, the booktok community rejoiced. Readers instantly fell in love with Hazelwood’s quirky heroine Olive, an anxious neuroscientist who finds herself fake dating her tall, brooding lab mate Adam. With plenty of steamy scenes, a tight-knit group of supportive friends dubbed the “Science Squad”, and a sweet feminist message, “The Love Hypothesis” became an overnight sensation.
Now Hazelwood is back with her sophomore novel “Love on the Brain”, proving she is no one-hit-wonder. Once again Hazelwood delivers an effervescent STEMinist rom-com led by an intelligent, offbeat protagonist. Only this time, instead of a shy biochemist, the story follows Bee Königswasser, an unapologetically loud-and-proud neuroscientist.
Bee lives life asking “What would Marie Curie do?” So when she lands an opportunity to co-lead a career-making collaboration between NASA and the NIH, Bee jumps at the chance – even after discovering her co-lead is Levi Ward, her longtime nemesis from grad school. Unfortunately Levi seems intent on sabotaging Bee’s career dreams when lab equipment goes missing and staff refuse to take her seriously.
Yet as they spend more time together, Bee starts to wonder if Levi’s standoffishness masks deeper feelings. Does her brooding co-lead actually long for her, despite years of seeming repulsion? Bee grapples with this question and her own growing attraction to Levi in between visits from her globe-trotting twin and late-night Twitter conversations about academia’s #patriarchyproblems.
With Bee and Levi’s tension-filled workspace providing plenty of steam, and lighthearted pop culture debates adding fun, “Love on the Brain” has all the ingredients of a classic Hazelwood rom-com. Yes, some of her signature plot points – like the tall, silent hero pining for the quirky heroine – bear strong resemblances to “The Love Hypothesis.” But with a fresh cast of characters and setting, fans are sure to revel in this playful, sex-positive story promoting women in STEM. Those seeking joyful romantic escapism should prepare to binge-read Hazelwood’s latest addictive offering.
Love on the Brain Main Characters
The protagonist and oddball neuroscientist with a purple pixie cut, tattoos, piercings, and an obsession with Marie Curie. Bee is the co-lead on Project BLINK, a cutting edge neuroengineering collaboration between NASA and NIH. She’s quirky, shamelessly herself, and questions “What would Marie Curie do?” although she struggles with imposter syndrome and anxiety from past academic failures.
Bee’s tall, brooding project co-lead and former academic nemesis from grad school. As an engineer, Levi is hyperlogical and often cold in his behavior due to family issues making him unable to properly communicate emotions. He secretly crushes on Bee despite acting standoffish and has defended her from sexism throughout their academic careers.
Bee’s globetrotting twin sister who is referenced constantly but never actually appears. Hazel seems the more outgoing, adventurous twin while the two share a close bond talking daily about life and relationships despite geographic distance.
Bee’s quirky Mexican-American assistant and self-proclaimed “bruja intern” obsessed with the macabre and La Llorona lore. As a PhD student, Rocío looks up to Bee as a mentor while eagerly taking on tasks like reorganizing Bee’s colorful post-it notes.
Cassidy “Cass” Holmes
Bee’s extroverted neighbor who loves gushing about her “feline overlords”—her many rescue cats. Cass also enjoys baking sweets to share with those around her, including her famous cake pops.
A mysterious Russian model/heiress and past rival of Bee’s from grad school. Misha seemingly returns to target Levi with aggressive romantic pursuit, but her motives prove far more devious.
Imogen Parker & Ryan Clarkson
Levi’s kind-hearted friends outside the lab, a widow and single dad finding happiness together after devastating loss. They provide Levi a sense of family absent from his tense relationship with his parents.
Dr. Martin Ward
Levi’s traditional father who frequently criticizes his son’s life choices. As CEO of the private space exploration company StarCore, Dr. Ward wishes Levi followed him instead of pursuing academic research.
Love on the Brain Themes and Tropes
“Love on the Brain” by Ali Hazelwood is a contemporary romance novel that intertwines the themes of feminism, science, and love. The story revolves around Bee Königswasser, a neuroscientist who, despite personal setbacks, remains determined and passionate about her career. The main plot centers on Bee being forced to collaborate with her grad school nemesis, Levi Ward, on a significant neuroengineering project at NASA, leading to a classic enemies-to-lovers trope.
This novel is notable for its strong emphasis on women in STEM fields, showcasing the challenges and sexism they face in a male-dominated environment. Bee, the protagonist, is portrayed as an intelligent and ambitious scientist who must navigate professional obstacles while also dealing with personal insecurities and past traumas. The book also delves into workplace dynamics, miscommunication, and the complexities of forming relationships in a high-pressure environment.
Love on the Brain Writing Style
Ali Hazelwood’s writing style in “Love on the Brain” is characterized by a blend of humor, modernity, and a focus on STEM themes. Her protagonist, Bee Königswasser, is depicted with a youthful, quirky voice, sometimes skewing towards a more youthful or cutesy tone than might be expected for her age and professional stature. The narrative includes epistolary elements, such as tweets and direct messages, adding a contemporary and tech-savvy layer to the storytelling. However, some readers might find these elements and the protagonist’s voice to be distracting or too childish, detracting from the portrayal of a mature, professional woman in STEM.
Hazelwood’s use of italics for emphasis in the dialogue and narrative is notable, though it can seem excessive. The book’s descriptions and characterizations tend to rely on familiar archetypes, with some critics noting a lack of depth and originality in the character development. Despite these critiques, Hazelwood’s approach has been appreciated for its focus on women in STEM, addressing workplace misogyny and advocating for female empowerment in a traditionally male-dominated field. The inclusion of romantic elements and a focus on character interactions are central to the story, though some readers felt these aspects were not as well-developed as they could have been.
Love on the Brain Book Review: Final Verdict
Though polarizing in some aspects, Ali Hazelwood’s sophomore novel “Love on the Brain” will undoubtedly delight her established fanbase while leaving some newlyweds less enthralled. Those who found immense pleasure in the comedic scientific escapades of her debut, “The Love Hypothesis,” are bound to soak up another dose of academic antics and miscommunicated romance. Readers enamored by steamy scenes featuring petite scientists exploring the anatomy of strapping lab partners will find their cups runneth over. And for any seeking out the familiar comforts of classic romance tropes like enemies to lovers presented through a quirky heroines and strong silent types, Hazelwood continues to deliver on expectations.
However, those less smitten by repetitive plot devices, imbalanced relationship dynamics that border on problematic, and at times juvenile dialogue may wish to access their own occipital cortex to erase all memories of “Love on the Brain.” And considering the fierce disparity between gushing fans and vehement detractors, one’s preexisting taste for Hazelwood’s flavor will likely determine where one falls on the spectrum this time around. So while far from universally beloved, “Love on the Brain” will satiate the cravings of loyal readers hooked after the first hit while searching for their next heart-eyed high.
- I spend my days immersed in the world of books, finding solace in their pages. In my spare time, I transform into a critic, penning reviews that unravel the magic and mystery of each story. This passion for reading is not just a hobby; it’s a part of who I am.
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