a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Square Root of Summer (2016)
Harriet Reuter Hapgood

In this young adult novel, a mathematically inclined teenager who ignores the sad events she does not want to remember learns to deal with them by literally revisiting her past through wormholes.

There are some unusual and unique things about this book. I have never seen anything like the course Gottie H. Oppenheimer is taking from an especially creative and inspiring teacher. The quiz in that class asks high school students questions like "Describe the Gödel metric" and "What is a key characteristic of a Möbius strip?"

The mathematical ideas and mathematicians discussed in this book are unusual in fiction (or even non-fiction) aimed at this age group and that is something good in itself. Still, I do wish there were not so many inaccuracies. For instance, the Gödel metric is not a "solution to the E=MC2 equation" which proves that the past still exists. (It would have been more accurate to say that is a solution to the equations of general relativity which is interesting because time in the universe it describes is entirely cyclical.)

Also, I have some appreciation for the implication that Gottie will be famous for discovering an equation when she grows up. This could definitely be an inspiration for some children. However, the idea that this discovery suggests an important role for human emotions in physics, directly affecting the shape of spacetime, struck me as a bit melodramatic.

In conclusion, however, I realize that all of my concerns and complaints above would be irrelevant to the young adults who are this book's intended audience. Such a reader could learn some important ideas about math, physics and dealing with emotions from this unusual story, and would probably enjoy reading it as well.

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Works Similar to The Square Root of Summer
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Time Travel for Love and Profit by Sarah Lariviere
  2. End of Days by Eric Walters
  3. White Rabbit, Red Wolf [This Story is a Lie] by Tom Pollock
  4. Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire
  5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  6. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman
  7. Beyond the Hallowed Sky: Book One of the Lightspeed Trilogy by Ken MacLeod
  8. Strange Attractors by William Sleator
  9. Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds
  10. The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Ratings for The Square Root of Summer:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction, Young Adult,
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Time Travel, Math as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful, Romance, Kurt Gödel,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics, Chaos/Fractals,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)