Love on the Brain is the second full-length novel by Ali Hazelwood, an author who quickly gained popularity for her “STEMinist rom-com,” The Love Hypothesis, last year. This novel follows Bee Königswasser, a neuroengineer, who receives the opportunity to co-lead a project for NASA. Unfortunately for Bee, her co-lead is none other than Levi, an enemy engineer from her past. However, as the project progresses, Bee realizes that her initial impression of Levi and his feelings towards her may have been wrong.
I read The Love Hypothesis when it was initially released and was surprised when it blew up on social media. Personally, I found the story difficult to get through (I had to check it out of the library three times to finish it!) and found some of the scenes cringeworthy. To me, it seemed more like a YA novel with aged up characters in order to include more mature content.
Although I didn’t enjoy Hazelwood’s first novel, I read her next project, which is a series of novellas that also focus on women in STEM careers. Like The Love Hypothesis, I found some of the scenes were a little cringeworthy with characters and situations so similar that the stories started to blend together. However, I found the novellas much more enjoyable because the pacing matched the short length of the story.
Going into Love on the Brain, her latest book, I worried that the pacing would be off like in The Love Hypothesis or the characters would seem copied and pasted like with the novellas. While some of these concerns were confirmed, I overall enjoyed Love on the Brain and think that it will please fans of Ali Hazelwood’s other works.
Some aspects of Ali Hazelwood’s novels that readers may find repetitive are the premise and certain tropes. Many of Hazelwood’s works share a common premise: the main character perceives that the male love interest did not like her in the past, then years later, the two are forced to share a common space or project. If you are a huge fan of this type of plot as well of the miscommunication trope, then you will probably enjoy this novel. However, if you are looking for a new or different plot from an author that you’ve enjoyed in the past, then you will not find it in this book.
While the plot of this book echoes many of the other books written by Hazelwood, I was more happy with the pacing in this book than The Love Hypothesis. While it took me months of picking up and putting down Hazelwood’s first full-length novella, I finished Love on the Brain over the span of two days. Love on the Brain is about 20 pages longer than The Love Hypothesis, however, to me it seemed like many of the scenes were more meaningfully included. While Hazelwood’s books are tropey (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!), I found the first book to be riddled with too many unnecessary scenes that felt like checking off boxes. That being said, there were some parts of the book, like the Marie Curie Twitter, that seemed to be rushed at the end.
I also enjoyed the main characters in this book. Bee seemed to be more fleshed out than other characters that I have read in Hazelwood’s other works. I found a lot of Bee’s reactions believable because of the backstory which Hazelwood provided for her throughout the book. While Bee was quirky, she didn’t have the aged-up, YA feel as Olive did to me. I did enjoy Levi as Bee’s love interest, while he did come across as a little “too perfect” to me. I think this is because most of his growth occurs in the years between when he first met Bee and when they meet again, so we don’t really get to see him grow throughout the novel.
Overall, I think if you have enjoyed Hazelwood’s other works, then you will probably enjoy this one too. If you are looking for something new or different writing style or plot-wise from this author, then you will probably be disappointed with this book.