MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Time Travel for Love and Profit (2021)
Sarah Lariviere
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Nephele Weather's nerdy tendencies made her an outcast at school. Since her "only superpower is math", she decides to discover the equations of time travel so that she can repeat her freshman year and become popular.

However, because of a topological twist that she does not notice until too late, the sort of "time travel" that she experiences in this young adult novel is unlike any I have seen before. She stays the same age and in the same grade at school, but (contrary to expectations) everyone else ages and moves on. Furthermore, since she is caught in a time loop of repeating freshman years, she sees the students who were her classmates grow up. At one point, she meets Vera who was her best friend in middle school but abandoned her to hang out with the cool kids in freshman year. However, when they meet again, Vera is an adult and working as a child psychologist. Moreover, Vera doesn't remember Nephele. Most of the people who knew her before end up essentially forgetting her as a result of the cognitive dissonance the time travel has caused. The problem is even worse in the case of Nephele's parents who do remember her but have a mental breakdown whenever they are reminded about any of the contradictions she created.

Nephele, who surprised her kindergarten teacher by estimating the area of a circular rug in square meters and was reading calculus books by second grade, is a math prodigy. The book makes it quite clear that it is mathematics which allows her to travel in time, even if it was high school drama which inspired her:

(quoted from Time Travel for Love and Profit)

Well, the first step in gut-renovating my life was building my time machine. That I was excited about. It would be an epic mathematical challenge. The thought of all the formulas I'd need to cook up made my mouth water. For the first time in months, I couldn't wait to wake up the next morning.
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Time travel wouldn't save just me. It might just save the planet.

And when it did?

The world would have Vera Knight to thank. Which was, I decided, perfectly fine. When I became a popular, highly kissable mathematician whose discovery had teenaged the course of human history?

I'd be more than happy to share the credit.

Unsurprisingly, the more specific math, computer science and physics ideas used here to explain time travel don't make much sense. For example, here is where she describes the smartphone app that she is writing to allow time travel:

(quoted from Time Travel for Love and Profit)

"Isn't it elegant? In an instant, my humble smartphone simultaneously de-encrypts every wireless device on earth and harnesses their power to measure the state of the quantum foam, then sets up a resonance that effectively folds time and shakes open a wormhole in it--"

But, I admit that I did sort of like the way some higher math gets brought into it later in the book when she realizes that she unintentionally caused knots in the fabric of spacetime which are responsible for the problems. This allows for a brief discussion of knot theory and the idea that it might be possible to untie the knots in higher dimensions. Other mathematical concepts that are touched upon include weird numbers, the liar's paradox, and fractals.

The major focus in the book is on her relationships with other people, especially a romance with a cute boy named Jazz Shipreck. The novel is not particularly deep, but judged by my usual standard for YA novels ("would I have liked it when I was that age?"), I think it is quite good and recommend it for any young person who likes reading about smart and quirky characters.

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(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Time Travel for Love and Profit
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman
  2. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
  3. Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire
  4. End of Days by Eric Walters
  5. White Rabbit, Red Wolf [This Story is a Lie] by Tom Pollock
  6. Monster's Proof by Richard Lewis
  7. Quaternia by Tom Petsinis
  8. Drop by Lisa Papademitriou
  9. Strange Attractors by William Sleator
  10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Ratings for Time Travel for Love and Profit:
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)
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Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
GenreScience Fiction, Young Adult,
MotifProdigies, Anti-social Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Time Travel, Romance,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)