Review: The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss by Amy Noelle Parks
~ Thank you to Edelweiss and Amulet Books for providing me with an early copy in exchange for honest review! ~
'Sometimes it's really hard to know what you want.'
This book did a lot of things right for me. Evie lives with anxiety (and has very similar views on it as I do) and also possesses a deep love for mathematics, so we have a lot in common. What I don't quite have in common with her, but I wish I did (sigh...), is her best friend Caleb.
Caleb is one of the best male characters I've read in a romance to date (ha!). He's very rational, and truly understands Evie on such a deep level it's impossible not to appreciate him. He also has such a solid understanding of what it's like for Evie to live with her anxiety and knows exactly what she needs and when she needs it. He has no qualms in learning how to help, but also makes it known that he's not doing this to 'fix' her.
First, I want to kill Leo for making her feel, even for a second, like something is wrong with her.
He also respects and understands Evie's tumultuous relationship with her mother. He doesn't judge her and even has the balls to cut in when necessary.
'Stop thinking of her as broken. Because she's not.'
It's so important for readers experiencing the same things as Evie to see that being treated the way Caleb treats Evie is what they deserve— that you don't have to settle for anything less. I also resonate so completely with how Evie feels about her anxiety.
I wonder how much of my anxiety has been produced by turning it into a Disorder instead of just seeing it as one of my traits.
Evie has the same relationship with therapy that I do— going when things get really bad, but recognizing when it's time to take a break. That sometimes therapy makes you fixate on the anxiety and then gives you more anxiety about your own anxiety when you should really just stop thinking about it.
Another thing I really commend this book for is how it handles bad familial relationships. I hate when books excuse abusive family members just because they are family. Being family does not mean you get a free pass. Evie's mom DRUGGING her tea because she doesn't trust her own daughter to handle her own anxiety crosses a line, but many books still excuse this behavior with the notion that it's family— that the parent must always be forgiven, and if not, it's the child who's cruel. This book flips that idea right on its head and that's why this next line blew me away.
'You know I love you, Evie,' she says.
'That's not an excuse.'
I have so much respect for Evie (and the author) for saying this. It's so important for people to know that they aren't obligated to love their families. It probably sounds crass, but that's because of how conditioned we are to believe the opposite. I appreciate the fact that this book helps combat that toxic mindset.
Of course, another thing I loved about Evie was her love for math. As someone who loves reading and also loves math, it's sometimes sad to see most book characters proclaiming their hatred for the subject and that the love of one is mutually exclusive of the other. This book however, relentlessly embraces the magic that is mathematics and its connections to nature and beauty, and I loved every second of it.
I wanted to write a book about a character who sees mathematics as beautiful and creative and bound up in our natural world.
Because I know that much is true.
The author writes this in the Author's Note and it truly encapsulates the reason I, and so many people, love math. It's something too many don't realize or appreciate— that math is discovered and observed, not invented, and that it can be creative and beautiful.
Naturally, Evie's love of math does come with frustrating discrimination from male colleagues. I'm always nervous about how this will be portrayed (sometimes the way that female characters react to it is counterproductive and gets on my nerves— e.g. how I felt about Kallia in Where Dreams Descend), but the way it's approached in this book is perfect. Evie identifies when people see her for her gender rather than her intelligence (and act like the two would have any correlation), but instead of projecting this into negative emotion, she doesn't let it affect her. She keeps a steady head, displays her intellectual prowess, and destroys any preconceived doubts, hopefully contributing to breaking the prejudicial cycle in at least one person at a time.
While Evie is completely confident in the world of numbers, the world of feelings is a bit more foreign to her. That's really what the main conflict of this book boils down to: Are her feelings romantic or platonic? Are they both? Is having both a problem?
At first, this conversation really bothered me because Evie completely separates these feelings in her head— she can't like Caleb romantically because she already loves him platonically. But, as the story went on, I realized that this is all part of her individual growth, and I ended up really enjoying the dialogue around this issue.
One potential criticism I can see with this book is that it really is mostly about the before of the relationship and less of the during/after. Personally, that's what I like reading about— I like the tension and angst and uncertainty leading up to two characters getting together and tend to care much less about the actual relationship once it forms (not really sure why... I just find the build up more fun I guess). But, I could totally see readers really looking for a romance be disappointed by the lack of the actual endgame romance in this book.
The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss is both adorable and hard-hitting in ways that specifically resonate with me and so much of my personal life. I'll definitely be keeping tabs on Amy Noelle Parks and am excited to see what she does next (secretly hoping I get more YA math content!).
Song I was reminded of while reading: hostage