Another contemporary for my records! *Lots of huzzahs* This book attracted me really for one grand reason: calculus. I took calculus in my last year of high school and it was my most hated, yet beloved class of the semester. (Art tops all) It was a really interesting to learn yet boring at the same time (I fell asleep a lot….oops). It was nonetheless taught by one of my favourite teachers and alongside math lessons he also gave out great life advice. (And let us watch Gladiator on the last day of classes and bought us pizza twice).
So yeah…really I saw “calculus” and pressed want-to-read, but this book held a lot more than just that.
The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb
A poignant and empowering teen novel of grief, unrequited love, and finding comfort in one’s own skin.
Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.
The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom’s faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden’s brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?
Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.
*Thank you to Raincoast Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*
This was a solid read. I was expecting a really light, fluffy read about falling in love and crushing really hard. And you know what? I got hit by a ton of bricks. Blow after blow after blow. This book was surface level fluff with much deeper and heavier problems hidden underneath. To quote people from Goodreads it was “realistic” story about a teenage girl with many teenage problems and her struggle to not fall apart.
What I Liked:
Aden: A teenage girl. Living la vida loca. Just kidding. (I mean her life is a little loca) I enjoyed Aden. I thought she was really funny and blunt. She made mistakes (a lot of them) and she had to own up to them (as one should). She had to grow up as the “mom” figure in her home after losing her own mother at such a young age. She did some pretty amazing things in the novel (like write a whole song)! She also struggles in finding comfort in her own skin. She was always comparing herself to others girls who were “trademark pretty”. She didn’t out right hate them or shame them, but envy thrived strongly in Aden. Her self-image problems came into conflict with other aspects of her life, especially on her new found crush with Tate.
Aden’s story was also one of finding the courage to let go. She was always so focused on mothering, on being there for her friends, her brother, her father and Tate that she kind of lost who she was in the midst. But I love the fact that her music and connection to her mother, however minimal they were, kept her grounded to her reality.
At first I was a little ummm…yikes about Aden’s views on beauty and sexual attractiveness. She would equate beauty and sexiness with being skinny and fit, wearing tight jeans and oddly enough smelling like something as pleasant as vanilla. However this story is an evolution. It’s a journey of getting out of that mindset, of not taking the bullshit to heart and finding it within herself to love who she is. It’s not an easy habit to quit, but it’s one that is important in finding the confidence and strength in yourself to face the world as you are.
Grief and Family:
Aden lost her mother at a very young age and her death really took a toll on everyone in her household. Her father lost himself to grief and it resulted in a bipolar nature. Her brother looked to Aden as a mother and Aden gladly filled that roll in as best as she could, even though she thought she didn’t know what she was doing. This book greatly shows how grief is not something gotten over within 300 pages or less. It endures before the first page and after the last page, the point is to not let it consume you. To live a life worth living.
I didn’t realize this was a story about unrequited love until I was doing my “inspect the book before I read” ritual. This was killer. There were so many times were I literally wanted to slap Tate upside the head! How could he not see how perfect he and Aden could be? And then there were times where I just wanted Aden to get over him. Just leave him be, but it’s not that easy to do especially when you fall hard and fast. Despite all this, there moments together were cute. They bonded over music, family, seeking their roots in Judaism and life. It was all so heart-warming and heart-wrenching too.
What I Disliked
I went in this for the calculus and there was no calculus. Hello? I mean I wouldn’t actually like to read a book on calculus because that would really be a snooze-fest, but the references to the math were weak and minimal. I thought music was the bigger motif than calculus. It’s a very misleading title.
It was good, it just wasn’t wow:
I had no intense emotions towards this book and this deals with some intense stuff. I just think I wasn’t invested in this enough emotionally, there was no real connection with many characters and everything felt meh. I was expecting a lot more feels, but it barely grabbed at them.
Overall, it was a solid story. It was a fast-paced read. The chapters are nice and short and the story itself is very easy to follow. There is a lot of drama, some things definitely shocked me, but it is ultimately Aden’s story to self-discovery and acceptance. I think the ending was one of my favourite bits.
Rating: 3 / 5
Recommed: Solid, cute and slightly heartbreaking. So yes.
Let me know what you think! Have you ever experienced unrequited love? How is your journey to self-acceptance/discovery going? What are some of your favourite YA romances?