THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS showed me the power of humor in romance
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I first heard about The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood from one of my very good friends who loves reading, writing, romance and Reylo as much as I do. After learning that Hazelwood was inspired for the book by star wars fanfiction she had written, I knew I had to read it. I grew up watching the original star wars from the VHS box set after all, and yes, I may also have a secret crush on Adam Driver. As I immersed myself in The love hypothesisI started thinking about the nature of romantic comedies and why they work so well.
So for those who haven’t read The love hypothesis, the story follows Olive Smith, a third-year doctoral student, as she continues her research into pancreatic cancer at Stanford. In an attempt to convince her best friend, Anh, that she’s done with her ex, Olive stumbles into an entertaining fake date plan with aloof and obnoxious teacher Adam Carlsen.
When I really connect with a book, I often fold the corners of the pages to remind myself of my favorite quotes. Sometimes I’ll go back and jot down the quotes in my reading journal and unfold the corners. Usually, however, I leave the corners of the pages bent forever like a real book troll. While reading The love hypothesis, I found myself bending turn after turn. By the time I finished reading, my book didn’t just have a few dog ears; he had the value of a dog sledding team.
As I retraced my steps through the pages, I noticed that many of the quotes I liked shared a loose theme. These quotes were funny and they made me laugh. They marked me enough for me to want to keep these pearls of humor and not forget them once the book is finished. With these funny scenes in mind, I began to piece together my hypothesis as to why humor makes a romance so great.
So what’s so great about humor in romance?
The protagonists are lovable and relatable
In a romance novel, I see myself more often in the place of the protagonist when he is in funny situations. When life isn’t going well for my character, I can laugh with him and think, “Yeah, I get it. This person is me. Take the following quote for example:
“She leaned forward. “Do you want to ask a long, leading question that will cause me to ramble incoherently and lose the respect of my peers, thus undermining my place in the field of biology forever?” (The Love Hypothesis, p. 217)
I’ve been in these situations where I get anxious while speaking, and I’m terrified of going down the path of incoherent rambling. I’m relieved that Olive understands. Bits of humor like this make me empathize deeply with the protagonist and laugh at the same time.
As that saying from Shakespeare goes, “the course of true love never ran smoothly”, and in my experience, that’s definitely putting it lightly. Seeing a romance protagonist stumble through the misfortunes of finding love, hard times and all, is refreshing and cathartic.
Groups of friends you want to be friends with
To me, funny friends in romance novels seem more authentic. I feel like I’m part of the fictional group of friends as I’m enveloped in their good humor, and that was definitely the case while I was reading The love hypothesis. I loved Olive’s friends, Anh and Malcolm. They were supportive, friendly and funny.
After Olive presents at a research conference, Anh and Olive have the following conversation:
“‘…while you were talking, I had a vision of your future in academia.’
Olive wrapped her arms around Anh. “What view? »
“You were a top researcher, surrounded by students who clung to your every word. And you were responding to a multi-paragraph email with a no without a capital letter. (p. 226)
My fatal flaw is multi-paragraph emails, and the idea of just sending a “no” is very liberating. Humor like this coming from Anh and Malcolm throughout the book reminded me of my own banter with my friends. Anh and Malcolm were friends I wanted to be friends with, and they did feel like friends while I read.
In a 2021 interview with Collider, Ali Hazelwood said, “Making friends as an adult is very difficult. And I feel like I really found my adult friends through fanfiction and the fandom community. I couldn’t agree with her more; this East difficult to make friends as an adult. For me, the funny characters I meet through romance novels feel like they’re in the company of good friends. As they make jokes in the story, I’m there giggling with them.
Best of all, the humor in romance lifts my spirits
My favorite romances are the ones that make me laugh out loud at the most unexpected times, and it’s happened to me all along. The love hypothesis.
“’There will only be one bed.’
He frowned. “No, like I said, it’s a double…”
‘It’s not. This will not be the case. There will only be one bed, that’s for sure.
He gave her a puzzled look. “I got the booking confirmation the other day. I can forward it to you if you want; it says that–’
‘No matter what he says. It’s still a bed. (p.209)
This tease of romantic tropes was too good. Stumbling upon these unexpected snippets of humor was like finding the bits of cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream. You don’t always know if it’s in your spoonful, but when you come across one, it’s the most delicious surprise.
Here I think lies the heart of why humor has an impact for me in romance. Romance, with its forever bliss, is a kind of well-being. I’ve always loved reading romance novels, but I also turn to this genre when I’m feeling down and consciously or subconsciously need something uplifting. When I read a romance novel, I am enveloped in a cozy love story. I also have a little more hope for the world.
When humor meets romance, it’s more than heartwarming. It really lifts my spirits. When life gives me bad days, winter or pandemics, I read a romantic comedy and feel joy again. If you want another corny metaphor, romance novels are the band-aid for my rough days and romantic comedies are the Neosporin. They are a balm for my soul.
My Romcom hypothesis (or rather, conclusion)
So here’s my rom-com hypothesis/conclusion for you: Reading rom-coms is one of my favorite ways to lift my spirits. It’s not a groundbreaking conclusion, but it’s something I think I sometimes overlook.
I’ve been reading and watching rom-coms for (almost) as long as I’ve been watching star wars. Sometimes though, I take them for granted. In the midst of dreary or busy weeks, I forget what a pick-me-up a romantic comedy can offer. The love hypothesis it reminded me of that. This book gave me comfort when I needed it, and I hope romantic comedies can do it for you too.
I can’t wait for Ali Hazelwood’s next book, Love On the Brain, to come out in August. I have a feeling this will be as funny as The love hypothesis.
For more romance humor, check out these 9 diverse romantic comedies to leave you smiling, or these 15 funny romance books that will have you laughing with every chapter. You may also enjoy reading this Rioter’s exploration of the idea of romantic comedies as escapist fantasy novels. Happy reading, lovebirds!