Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Falling in love is a chemical reaction.

Just ask Kaya Rubio, twenty-five year-old Molecular Genetics graduate student and research assistant. Fed up with her spinster aunts’ relentless reminders and unsolicited advice regarding her Single Since Birth status, she designs a scientific, evidence-based methodology to find her a suitable partner in time for her cousin’s wedding.

As any good scientist knows, any valid experimental design requires a negative control. Enter the most unsuitable candidate for a potential boyfriend: the messy, easygoing, café owner Nero Sison. Her null hypothesis? Going out with Nero would establish her baseline data without catalyzing the chemical reaction she seeks.

But when Kaya’s recorded results refuse to make sense, she is forced to come to the conclusion that there are some things in life that are simply, by nature, irrational and illogical.

And that sometimes, chemistry doesn’t always happen inside a lab.

My Review

I went on such a journey with this book!

I went from absolutely loving it to getting slightly annoyed and a little disheartened by what I was perceiving to be a certain stereotype to then coming back full circle and loving it again! So I guess I better explain myself.

This book is 100% adorkable.

It’s cuter than cute and seriously funny! I laughed out loud so many times.

We are introduced to our leading lady Kaya, a masters student pursuing her post-graduate qualification in molecular biology, who describes herself and her experiences within social settings as follows:

“As a student, I have never found it easy to make friends, and these perceived incompatibilities have persisted into adulthood.

In the interest of optimising my life experience, I had abandoned casual and recreational socialisation on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and repeated reinforcement that I am undesirable.

I am twenty-five years old, average in height but have a maintained body mass index of twenty, in the middle of an advanced degree, and with a decent income from working in the lab in exchange for research supervision.

Logically, through the course of my school years, I should have forged solid alliances with my peers, perhaps even a romantic relationship at some point, but I remain an anomaly.

Perhaps on paper, I would succeed as a candidate for a romantic relationship and would succeed in reproducing and passing on my genes to future generations, but the field tests conclude otherwise.”

But like pretty much any other singleton in their mid-twenties and beyond, Kaya has to field questions from her well-intentioned family and her friends at work about her single-status and while she doesn’t see her single-hood as being a negative thing she does note that there may be a correlation between personal happiness and being in a relationship merely from observing members of her extended family.

So she, being the batshit crazy scientist she is, proposes an experiment to test that hypothesis: The Boyfriend Experiment.

With the help of her work colleagues she sets out to see if her lifestyle and personality are conducive to dating and if indeed she can find a suitable romantic partner and much hilarity ensues!

I just loved Kaya from the beginning.

She is completely likeable. She is so utterly socially clueless but so incredibly smart! She is this wonderful mix of outwardly confident with doubts bubbling under the surface that she doesn’t seem to acknowledge or is in denial about acknowledging.

Where I got a little annoyed by this book, and was pretty much for only about three or four short chapters, is that I thought well yet again a person within the scientific field is being portrayed to be so academically smart and yet socially awkward and naive. I get tired of that stereotype that to be scientifically minded you must only have science smarts but no life smarts. That as a scientist you’re somehow more likely to be clueless about how to socialise with the rest of society??

See I disagree with that stereotype because of my own personal experience as I am a research scientist. Or at least I was up until illness dictated otherwise.

But the majority of my friends and my acquaintances are scientists, laboratory and otherwise.

And I don’t see that “geeky” stereotype as a common occurrence. Why is it that just because a person likes maths and is interested in the study of chemical and physiochemical processes or other scientific disciplines that they’re automatically assumed to be socially awkward? That their work and research is the only thing that drives them?? So that personal grievance bothered me for a few chapters.

HOWEVER!!!

The more I read the more I felt that the book revealed more of Kaya’s personality to us and the more real she felt and less stereotyped.

She felt much more layered to me than typical rom-com characters and the portrayal of her more personal fears and insecurities made her seem less of a science-obsessed automaton than I at first feared.

So yay!!!

A light entertainment read that shows a character with depth AND personal growth.

And Kaya’s lab mates certainly didn’t succumb to those geek stereotypes so that was another plus point.

But what was even better again is that Kaya never apologised for who she was. She never apologised for being nerdy or for loving her job.

And what is great too is the spotlight that this does shine on women who work within the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) as it showed a female character who was unashamedly smart and passionate about her career.

And even though one could say that this book ultimately succumbs to focusing on the romantic storyline I would argue it ultimately showed that there is nothing negative about being career minded and striving for that type of success and the personal fulfilment it brings.

There’s one chapter that moved me deeply because it was so beautifully written; it explored the reasons why we should make no apologies for expressing our passions, i.e. Kaya’s love for molecular biology, even if the *popular* consensus is that these passions are either boring, or too complicated to listen to, or even are of little interest. If they make us happy and we are interested in them and willing to give our working lives to their study then basically… SCREW THE HATERS!!!!! Let the nerd love out!!!!

This is such a great little book.

It does feel to me like a gender swapped The Rosie Project so if you liked that then you’ll love this.

It’s filled with laugh out loud moments, hilarious insights into lab life and some beautifully touching moments. It’s not perfect, the build up to the ending was a little messy I felt, but it’s such a fun and enjoyable read that I can’t not highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

four stars

“Often scientists are seen as cold and calculating, so out of touch with their emotions, they’re barely human.

But science is passion and beauty.

And if you’re willing to look at it from a certain point of view, science tells the greatest love stories.

From the cosmic big bang to Watson, Crick, and Franklin’s elucidation of DNA are stories of man’s endless search for knowledge. For finding our place in this vast universe.”

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4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes – Book Review

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