Tuesday, December 27, 2016

GETTING INSIDE the controversies: An Interview with Serena Bell

Contemporary romance author Serena Bell is ringing in the new year by launching Getting Inside, the first book in her Seattle Grizzles series of football sports romances. The book features a heroine with the most stereotypically gendered male of jobs: she's a professional football coach (linebacker coach). RNFF talked with Bell about this untraditional choice of profession for her heroine, and other controversial aspects of her unusual sports romance.

SB: First of all I wanted to say, Jackie, thank you so much for doing this interview. I love this blog and the way you tackle identity issues head-on and fearlessly, and I'm really happy to have the chance to talk about Getting Inside's release here.

RNFF: Thanks to you, Serena, for agreeing to be interviewed, and for talking about the controversial aspects of this book. First, I'm curious to know, where did you get the idea to have a female professional football coach as a protagonist?

Dr. Jen Welter, coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals
SB: When I first started working on this series, the NFL hadn't yet hired its first female coach, Kathryn Smith (hired by the Buffalo Bills in January 2016), but it had hired its first female coaching intern, Dr. Jen Welter. I found myself fascinated by her, and I wanted to bring some of both her triumphs and her struggles to life on the page.

RNFF: How did you balance the need to portray the difficulties faced by women entering a predominantly male profession with the need to write a hopeful story (a requirement of romance)?

SB: Writing romance is always a tricky balancing act in this regard. On one hand, readers pick up a romance for the fantasy—the pleasure of getting to spend time in a world that's simpler and less stressful than the one they live in. On the other, if you decide to write about a controversial topic (like women in men's sports), you have a responsibility not to gloss over the difficulties of the real people who are struggling to make their way in a far grittier and more nuanced world than romance. My goal was to split the difference as best I could.

RNFF: Early in the novel, your hero, Ty (a linebacker on the Grizzlies' team) uses the "women are a distraction" argument to justify (at least in his head) his opposition to heroine Iona's presence on the coaching staff:

As soon as I lay eyes on her, I get this fierce, almost painful rush. It's just the aftereffect of going toe-to-toe with her over O's job. That's what I tell myself. Not about going toe-to-toe with her in a completely different way. Actually, there's no toe-to-toe in the video siege firing through my brain. Every other conceivable position though. This is exactly why women don't belong in the PFL. Because all this shit in my head doesn't belong in the PFL. (341)

How have women in football and other male-dominated professions countered such arguments?

SB: They've countered the argument by being good at what they do, by showing over time that they're an asset, not a detriment, to any organization. And that's what Iona does for Ty. She's steady, she's present, she's effective, and in the end, that's what convinces him, far more than any verbal argument she could present. Which is why, of course, it's so critically important for us to get more women into more roles we don't expect to see them in; it's the best way to change the kind of outmoded thinking that Ty's early musings represent.

RNFF: The first turn in Iona and Ty's relationship comes after a joint radio interview, during which a broadcaster insults Iona and Ty defends her. Iona gets angry with him, telling him she doesn't need defending. But then Ty says he would have defended any coach, male or female, and Iona thinks, "I suddenly realize that I'm being a great big douchebag" (946). Can you take us through your thinking here, regarding what's sexist and what's not?

SB: In my mind, the show's host is absolutely sexist—his blindsiding Iona (which, by the way, wouldn't really happen in sports radio; I took artistic license) with an assault on the viability of female coaches is just plain wrong. Ty may be operating out of some assumptions that he needs to revisit—the idea that Iona needs his protecting—but I don't see his motives as suspect. Iona is encountering one of her own blind spots; she's so used to being armored against the men in her life that she responds defensively to Ty's desire to protect her. Knowing Ty and Iona, I suspect she will have to tell him to "back off" more than once more in their lives together, and he will get better over time at letting her fight her own battles. And vice versa. I can see her trying to fight his battles just as easily as the reverse.

RNFF: A couple of Iona's observations struck me: First, "Pro sports are this country's hardest meritocracy, with the possible exception of the armed forces. If you make it this far, you must be good enough—it's true of players, coaches, staff—male or female." Second, "the worst sexists are aging off, and the players are so young, so most of them are used to the idea of women in positions of power. And a huge number of them grew up in single-parent households run by mothers, so the notion of a woman who calls the shots doesn't faze them." I couldn't help thinking these observations were more wishful thinking than reality, especially in light of the recent ascendance of Donald Trump. Do you believe they're true? Who was your source?

SB: Both of these observations came via a journalist friend who spent a good portion of his career in locker rooms and on sports courts and fields. His point is that—exceptions aside—pro athletes are just that, pros, and their overriding goal is to win. Everything else is just a distraction, including gender (which may be the myopia of male privilege, but I still found it be an incredibly interesting observation). He said that for most pro players, if a coach can make them better, that's all they need to know.

Now, we all know that's not how it plays out systematically. There are still almost no female coaches in pro football (or in other male-only pro sports). There are still far too few black coaches and black quarterbacks in pro football. And for sure, there is still an enormous amount of intolerant language, behavior, and bullying in pro sports—on both the player side and the fan side. I chose to focus in this book on individual positive behavior, because my primary goal was to normalize the idea of women with key roles in men's pro sports. I want readers to end up cheering for Iona's strength rather than seeing her as a victim.

RNFF: Bringing up the issue of race in pro sports leads right in to another controversial aspect of your book: you are a white author, while both of your protagonists are African American. Talk about your thinking around that decision.

SB: Around seventy percent of NFL players are men of color, and from the beginning, I knew I didn't want to write a series that suggested otherwise. (As I side note, and to reiterate a point I made earlier, this doesn't mean that positions are fairly distributed by race, something that needs to change). I struggled with feeling like it wasn't my "place" to write this story, or that I'd be taking an #ownvoices opportunity away from a writer of color. But I am hopeful about the "abundance" behavior of the romance market: the more readers encounter books with thoughtful portrayals of characters of color, the more of those books the market will demand.

RNFF: Controversy #2: workplace relationships. Falling in love on the job is a common romance novel trope. But many readers have trouble if there are uneven power dynamics involved (if one party is the other's boss, for example). In your story, your heroine, Iona, is a coach, and your hero, Ty, is a linebacker who plays under her. When they first meet, Ty is instantly attracted to Iona. He knows, though, "if she's anyone who has anything remotely to do with the team, she's off limits" (137). But by novel's end, both still retain their jobs even after they have gone public with their romantic relationship. Take us through your thinking here, about why this is a HEA, rather than a potentially squicky ending.

SB: For me, it has everything to do with the real way power is distributed in a relationship. Power is complicated. It can come from physical size and strength, from someone's position in the career hierarchy, from someone's privilege within the larger society, and from a lot of other sources. The reason the ending isn't squicky for me (squickiness is, of course, 100% in the eye of the beholder) is because when I look at the way power balances out between Iona and Ty, neither of them holds an unfair amount of it.

RNFF: Controversy #3: the "balls" issue ;-)  In an RNFF post from 2014, titled "The Anatomy of Courage," I used your book Hold on Tight to discuss why using the word "balls" as an image of courage might be problematic. And early in 2017's Getting Inside, Ty observes this of a fellow player about whom he was worried: "I grin. He's got his balls reracked"(125). Tell us why you think it's important to use such language when portraying certain male protagonists.

SB: I don't think it's essential. I think another writer might make a different decision, to give Ty a totally genderless set of language around courage. That said, it seemed pretty clear to me, given the freedom—one might say abandon—with which Ty discusses his, erm, "equipment" in this book that he'd locate male courage in his balls. I wanted him to feel credible as a guy who spends his time in locker rooms, even if he's also a guy who wouldn't tolerate, in a million years, the notion of a locker room as a place where hate belongs.

RNFF: So, what's up next for this series? Will you be tackling any of the issues about race in pro football that you mention above?

SB: You'll be hearing more about the Grizzlies! Calder's book is up next, followed by two more books about some of your other favorite characters, too. And I'd love to tackle more of the issues around race—particularly equity in coaching and quarterback positions—in future books.

Thank you again, so much, for the great questions and the space to think and talk about these issues!

RNFF: Thanks, Serena, for stopping by. I'm looking forward to seeing what develops next in this series. Given the stats in the "Gender Equality in Radio" graphic above, might I say that I hope a female sports talk radio personality might feature in a future Grizzlies romance?

RNFF readers: What are your thoughts about any/all of the above controversies? Do they make you more or less likely to search out Bell's book?

Photo credits
Jen Welter: Washington Times
Gender Equality in Radio: Visual.ly
Workplace relationships: Careerbuilder.com via Brandon Gaille

Getting Inside
Loveswept, 2017

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In-Body Experiences: Alex Beecroft's LIONESS OF CYGNUS FIVE

When I taught a class on Science Fiction and Fantasy for children and young adults (during my days as a professor at Simmons College), I spent a lot more time reading SF than I do today. In part because my interests now have shifted to romance, but also because so often hard SF does not focus on interpersonal relationships, while most SF romance does not satisfy my desire, grounded in years of fantasy and SF reading, to dwell in a thoughtfully created secondary world where ideas, not just personal relationships, matter. Which explains my delight when I heard that Alex Beecroft, one of my favorite contemporary and historical romance writers, had jumped on the SF ship.

The versatile Beecroft's latest, Lioness of Cygnus Five, is set in a space-faring future, after humans on Earth have spread far and wide throughout the galaxies. Spreading along with them is the human penchant for fighting between different cultural groups, groups that base their identities on opposite sets of beliefs. One of Lioness's protagonists is a member of the "The Kingdom," a low tech-Luddite religious force determined to colonize all other human planets for their own good. Aurora Campos was once the most gifted and revered "holy warrior" among The Kingdom's soldiers, touted by many as a new Joan of Arc, but a very public moral mistake has left her dishonored and disgraced. Shunted off to the hinterlands, she now only rates command of a lowly transport ship, staffed by other Kingdom "freaks and rejects," with a cargo of convicts bound for the prison planet Cygnus Five.

The da Vinci surgical system: a precursor to
Bryant Jones' technology?
One of those prisoners is wily Bryant Jones, who has suffered his own fall from grace. After his planet, part of the "Source," a godless, secular, and technologically advanced culture, is conquered by The Kingdom, his work as a highly reputable persona surgeon (a kind of super high tech plastic surgeon) is regarded as criminal. When one of his underground surgeries is interrupted and his patient dies because of it, Bryant is convicted of murder, and bound over to be exiled to the prison colony of Cygnus Five. But Bryant is determined to use his superior technological knowledge to take control over Captain Campos's ship before they reach the planet.

At the start of the novel, neither Jones nor Campos has much respect for the other. Jones thinks of Campos, "She was an odd-looking woman, somewhere between olive-skinned beauty and prize-fighting troll"; "it was kind of pathetic seeing a woman so butch make any gestures at all in the direction of femininity" (114, 223). For her part, while Campos finds Jones a bit more physically appealing, she still regards him as a distasteful threat:

A beanpole of a man. Black, like Mboge [her 2nd in command] but a paler shade, his oval face freckled all over like a plover's egg and his shaggy hair, which curled naturally into tight spiraled ringlets, worn like a bouncy cloud.... Yet when she looked at him, fragility was the last thing she saw. No that was a snake. A little brown vine snake of the kind that had been harmless when it left Earth, but had developed potent venom in its new home. (409)

Nor does either have much respect for the other's culture or beliefs, assuming that their own is of course far superior:

Jones on Campos:

Her planet must have been under Kingdom rule so long they'd forgotten they weren't free. She must have been born under it and raised by parents, grandparents who were born under it. It must feel like nature to her, thinking the way that she thought. He'd often said before that he felt sorry for the dupes who actually believed it all, but this was the first time he'd actually meant it" (797).

Campos to Jones, when Jones exclaims his disgusted that the escape launch has to be flown manually:

"What planet are you from that doesn't appreciate human skill, Jones?.... God gave some of us speed and reflexes because he meant us to use them, and didn't give them to others because they were meant to do something else. That's basic orthodoxy" (577).

Campos is a naïve but ruthless do-gooder, bent on self-sacrifice, or so Jones believes, while Campos is certain that Jones is a sneaky weasel, always looking out for number one. But after the prison transport is attacked, and the two crash-land together on the detention planet, they are forced to interact in order to survive. And their opinions of each other, and of each other's values, slowly begin to change:

Enhancements, he'd said. He had enhancements to tell when food was poisoned, and presumably enhancements to heal himself fast. How many of my people over the years would have lived if they'd had the same? It was an unsettling thought. Why would God disapprove of healing anyway? (1061)

"Mind rape" she'd called it [his culture's use of nanites to influence others' feelings], which was disturbing because he hadn't thought of it that way before, and having thought of it made all the times he'd done it sound kind of sordid. You certainly didn't defend people from one sort of rape by carrying out another. (1567)

Jones and Campos begin to discover the value in difference, and the value of working with someone who appears to be your total opposite.

Medical nanites
Before Jones has fully embraced this new insight, however, he transfers medical nanites to Campos (after promising her not to), as a defensive move. But when Campos decides to singlehandedly try and rescue her crew, captured by rebellious prisoners, he decides to use the nanites for her protection—by changing her body into a man's.

Without, of course, asking her first.

Beecroft has penned an adventure-filled utopian science fiction romance, an opposites-attract love story that also interrogates issues of gender and bodies, all with intelligence and a healthy dollop of humor. While Lioness of Cygnus Five will never be mistaken for hard SF, it does gift its readers with an engaging balance of extrapolative thought-experiment and unexpected romance.

What have been your favorite feminist SF romances of 2016?

Photo credits:
da Vinci Surgical System: Londonist
Medical nanites: Softpedia

Lioness of Cygnus Five
indie published, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

More Scientists in Love: Emily Foster's HOW NOT TO FALL

This must be my month for female scientist protagonists in romance. Last week I wrote about Kaya, a Filipino molecular biologist in Six de los Reyes's Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions; today's science nerd heroine is New York City transplant white girl Annabelle, just finishing up her B.S. in a psychophysiology lab at Indiana University. But even though both Kaya and Annie are scientists (or scientists-in-the-making), two such different protagonists are hard to imagine. Just as there are many ways of being a woman, so, too, are there many different ways of being a woman scientist.

When Annie was younger, she thought that dance, not science, would be her future career. In fact, during her early teen years, she was dancing five days a week in preprofessional training at the Joffrey Ballet. But when she was fifteen, "dancing eight hours a day and doing my academics as a hobby," she had a sudden realization—she loved dancing, but it was doing science, studying the biology of the brain, that "made me feel like me" (Kindle Loc 1238). Art and science are often constructed as binary opposites—you're a math/science person, or you're an artsy person. But Annie appreciates the science behind what she can do on a dance floor, and the artistry of what she can do in the lab.

Annie still keeps a foot in the dance camp, teaching classes at a local studio several times a week, but the majority of her hours are spent in the lab, working on her senior thesis about peoples' responses to anger. And lusting after the department's post-doc, twenty six-year-old rockclimbing dreamboat Charles. But Annie's personality won't allow her to sit and lust in silence any longer; no, she's all about the going-for-what-you-want method of barreling through life. And so, after quietly lusting for a year and a half, Annie has invited Charles to meet under the pretext of needing help with some data for her thesis. But in reality, she's planning to tell him this (which of course she has rehearsed, since she is one well-prepared scientist): "Charles: you know this is my last semester in college, and then I'm leaving for grad school. I think you and I have A Thing and so I would like to engage in a physical relationship with you before I leave Indiana. What do you say?" (45).

Annie considers including "a list of attributes I think make me a highly promising sex partner, a list that is bold, funny, and indicative of her lack of sexual experience:

(1) My brain. An asset for every other complex task I've undertaken, and I see no reason why it won't come in handy for this one.
(2) My athleticism. I don't know exactly how this will help me either, but I'm sure I've heard the phrase "athletic sex," and I'm sure I would like to try some.
(3) My enthusiasm. I feel confident it's better to have sex with someone who's really, really glad to be there with you than with someone who isn't.
And possibly also (4), my unblinking willingness to look like an idiot in public. (59)

Not unsurprisingly, when Annie springs her proposal on an unsuspecting Charles, she has to draw on all that willingness to look like an idiot in public. For not only does Charles take the out an embarrassed Annie offers when faced with the flabbergasted post-doc ("Feel free to say no! Honestly! I won't take it personally—I mean, even if you mean it personally, I'll just chalk it up to a boss-student thing" [179]), he also points out a serious oversight in the data she sent him, a unaccounted-for pattern that will mean hours and hours more time in the lab for disappointed, sexually frustrated Annie.

Charles, though, sees a lot of himself in Annie, and despite her rather ill-conceived proposition, decides to help her through her last weeks of research and writing. He brings her food when she spends too long in the lab; he takes her rock-climbing to help her relieve stress; and he generally acts as his usual all-around-good-guy, just with an extra helping of nice for Annie.

But Annie can't help but still think "The Thing" is real, especially after she gives in to the sexual tension and kisses him. Turns out that Annie wasn't quite wrong when she sensed that she and Charles had "A Thing." But since fraternizing with those over whom you have power is both a legal and ethical no-no, Charles refuses to do anything about it.

At least until his attempts to stave her off lead whip-smart Annie to back him into a logical corner:

     "We have A Thing!" I say. "We've had A Thing for ages! I thought I was wrong, but I'm not wrong."
     "I give up," he groans. "Look, why don't we talk about it after you graduate."
     "You agree with have A Thing?"
     "Yes. We have A Thing. Christ on a bike." With his elbows on his desk, he rakes his hands into his hair and stares at his blotter.
     "And you'll talk about it after commencement, on the tenth?" As far as I'm concerned, he has opened a negotiation.
     "Sure. Yes," he tells his blotter.
     "Classes end May second and I've got no finals, so really I won't be a student after that. We could talk about it then, on the last day of classes, instead of waiting until after commencement."
     He looks up at me and throws himself back in his chair. "Annie—"
     "Why not?"
     "Saints defend me. Christ and all the apostles fucked up the arse by Moses, fine. All right. We'll talk about it on the second. Now for the love of god, please get out of my office, you harpy." He shoos him with one hand, from his trench behind the desk.
     I rise, but I don't leave. "What time on the second?" (784)

A detail-oriented brain may be a necessary requirement for success as a scientist, but persistence is equally important. And Annie is nothing if not persistent.

And thus, on May 2nd, Annie and Charles become friends with benefits, both agreeing to engage in a short-term fling. A fling that gets off to a bit of a rocky start when, during their pre-sex exchange sexual histories thing (and in what might just be my favorite passage in this amazingly hilarious book), Annie informs Charles that she's never really engaged in intercourse before:

     "I guess I'm what would be called a 'virgin.'" I put it in quotes with my fingers and make a face.
     "I beg your pardon?" he says.
     "A virgin?" I say, like it's a question. "It's a medically meaningless idea, it's all just patriarchy and—"
     "Yes"—he holds up a hand an closes his eyes—"I'm a feminist too, we needn't rehearse the arguments about purity as a virtue meaningly only int he context of male ownership of women."
     (You see why I like this guy? He says it like it's just understood that any reasonable person would identify as a feminist. I didn't identify that way until, like, two years ago, but with him, feminism is taken as read. Ah-mazing.)
     And then he says, "Oh god," and he leans back in his chair and looks at the ceiling. "I had no idea I was so medieval." He's laughing now, a silent chuckle, both hands over his face.
     "Apparently, I'm a terrible human being," he says through his palms. Then he takes a great big sigh and straightens a little in his chair, gripping his hands together in his lap. "The idea of deflowering you has given me a raging hard-on and filled my brain with the most shamefully barbaric thoughts. There's a bit of self-knowledge I wouldn't have bet on." He's looking out the window, where the sun has just begun to set.
     "Really?" I'm grinning, terribly pleased for no reason. It's not like I earned that hard-on, I mean, I all I did was not have any sex yet, but still!" (979)

Clearly, despite his "medieval" tendencies, Charles is the more experienced, and the more emotionally mature, partner in this duo. But he never uses either advantage to make Annie feel lesser. And Annie, with her courage, her enthusiasm, and her determination to not let embarrassment interfere with what she wants, or with understanding what Charles wants, has just as much to offer the post-doc as he has to offer her, both in and out of bed.

The "Thing," then, runs quite smoothly (quite hotly!) for a few short weeks. Until Annie, in her boundless enthusiasm, falls crashingly hard into love with Charles... and Charles doesn't with her.

Or so he (and his background of family trauma) say...

On her web site, Foster explains that she wrote How Not to Fall "because she was totally sure it was possible to write a romance about a college student who experiences her sexual awakening with an older, more powerful man, in a way that was sex positive, feminist, and medically accurate, as well as sexy as heck." After reading How Not to Fall, I'm happy to report that Foster exceeded all four of her goals. And topped it all off with the tastiest of cherries: laugh-out-loud humor.

Good thing the sequel to this cliffhanger, How Not to Let Go, will be coming out right after Christmas....

Photo credits:
Rock climber: Vertical Hold Rock Climbing Gym
Dept. of Brain Sciences: Indiana University
I Am a Feminist, Too: Thinker's Notepad

How Not To Fall
Kensington, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Love as a Scientific Experiment: Six de los Reyes, BEGINNER'S GUIDE: LOVE AND OTHER CHEMICAL REACTIONS

If you're part of a large extended family, and you regularly attend family get-togethers, you're probably used to the well-meant yet intrusive personal questions that aunts, grandparents, and second cousins once removed frequently lob in your direction. When are you going to get a boyfriend? When are you and your girl going to make it legal? When are you and that spouse of yours going to start popping out grandbabies so we have someone to kiss and coo over?

Kaya would much rather be in the lab...
Such conversations are especially difficult for Kaya, the heroine of Six de los Reyes' contemporary romance Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions, who is studying at a university in Manila for her MS in Molecular Biology. Kaya's always been different from the others in her close-knit extended Filipino family; introverted, a science nerd, and far more of a thinker than a feeler, Kaya would far rather be working in her lab than attending yet another of her family's "ostentations affairs." As Kaya explains, "In the interest of optimizing my life experience, I had abandoned casual and recreational socialization on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and repeated reinforcement that I am undesirable" (90).

But no one in the family is allowed to avoid attending a family get-together. Get-togethers where "appropriately themed music would be set just a decibel below the legal limit, and the mandatory coordinating outfits would put the rainbow to shame. Anything less than crazy and outright embarrassing in decent company did not deserve to be called a party. It didn't even matter if it was a real cause for celebration. If the day warranted capitalization, it deserved a bash" (185).  Which is why, in the second scene of Beginner's Guide, Kaya finds herself at the home of her maternal grandparents for her cousin Czarina's Engagement Party (theme: "Czarina's Crazy Carnival").

...than partying with her family
Having to dress as a mime is only the first of a series of indignities Kaya has to endure during the latest family bash. Being teased by her older brother, misunderstood by her cousins' dates when she tries to talk about her work, and interrogated about her dating life by her Titas ("What are you looking for, anyway? Maybe your standards are too high! Don't be so picky!") is bad enough. But when cousin Daphne suggests "Maybe, you know, you're not single because you work all the time. Maybe you work all the time because you're single" (304), Kaya can't help but start questioning whether there is something inherently wrong with her.

Knowing his daughter well, Kaya's father challenges her on her own terms: "Do you have any evidence supporting this claim?" he asks when she wonders if she is just not suited to a romantic relationship. And when she says no, he challenges her to do something about it: "At least try, that's what you do, right? You try things and see what happens" (340). The "repeated phenomenon" of having her singleness called out during the party "created a disturbance in my brain" (340). And while Kaya knows that "my family is hardly a representative sample of the overall population," she also wonders if "the generalized view they presented on the benefits of being in a relationship indicated that it was directly related to happiness."

Kaya knows of only one way to test this hypothesis: to conduct a scientific experiment. Kaya's lab benchmate, postdoc Eugene, helps her design her "proof of concept experiment" in the local cafe/library, In Lab. One of the key issues in the experiment is how to filter out unwanted individuals, the discussion of which catches the attention of In Lab's owner, Nero Sison. Nero and Kaya are like oil and water: Nero, an artist, is ironic, tattooed, and a member of "a world that rarely collided with mine. A world that valued aesthetics and feelings more than they did fact and evidence" (535). While Kaya's list of "unsuitable individuals" includes more than twenty different disqualifications ("one afflicted with dangerous psychological disorders, sociopaths and psychopaths, or someone with sexually transmitted diseases," etc. etc. [550]), Nero's standards are much looser: "Not Evil. And I'm telling you, I have a very loose personal definition of Not Evil" (584).

Savvy romance readers are likely to see where this is all heading. But the fun of the very funny but never condescending towards its socially awkward heroine Beginner's Guide is in the trip, not just the destination. I especially appreciated that the solution to Kaya's search for a romantic partner didn't require Kaya to throw out her preference for thinking over feeling. Instead, at novel's end, her wise father once again challenges Kaya on her own scientific terms:

     "If the evidence points towards you liking him, then shouldn't that be the recorded result of your experiment? Declaring it null and voice just because you don't like the data seems irresponsible. If your evidence points to wanting to be with him, then choosing to push him away because of an unoptimized methodology sounds to be the illogical choice here.
     "No one's perfect. Not even perfect for you. People just are, and you accept that about them, flaws and all. And love, it never happens the way you plan for it to happen. And if love is just a chemical reaction, then maybe it doesn't always happen within laboratory conditions" (2772-81)

A conclusion with which Kaya, and her readers, are ultimately happy to agree.

Photo credits:
Manila University Science Lab: Newsbytes Philippines 
Family party: A Pinoy in Korea blog
Love Chemistry: Meducator

Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions
(Talking Nerdy #1)