Review: The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

Synopsis/Cover Image from Publisher's Website
A poignant and empowering teen novel of grief, unrequited love, and finding comfort in one's own skin.

Aden isn't looking for love in her senior year. She's much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike's and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden's heart is gone in an instant.

The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom's faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden's brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?

Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.


Confession time: I'm a huge math nerd. When I was in high school and college, I would use math problems as a way to relax. There's just something so magical about the way numbers come together.

Therefore, when I discovered Jessie Hilb's THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE, a 2018 debut that involved a character that loved math (i.e. a girl after my own heart!), I knew I had to have it! Going into THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE I was expecting a sweet, cutesy romance; however, that's not exactly what I received. Instead, THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE was much more gritty, focusing on grief, change, complex relationships, student/teacher relationships, self image, and even teen pregnancy. In some ways, it worked well, and in other ways it didn't work at all.

At its heart, THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE is a coming-of-age. It primarily focus on Aden's growth over the course of her senior year as well as the numerous obstacles she faces and relationships she cultivates along the way.

When THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE starts, one this is clear: Aden hasn't been the same since her mother passed away. She feels incredibly responsible for her family's wellbeing, and she craves the guidance and love that only a mother figure can offer.

Aden's situation is heartbreaking. If there's one girl who needs a huge hug, it's definitely Aden. Over the course of the book, Aden struggles with balancing her responsibilities as well as making time for herself. She knows she doesn't have to be the one to take care of her family as well as her friends, but she does so regardless. She's the constant shoulder to cry on as well as the girl to help clean up after a mess. Over the course of the book, Aden begins to let go - she lets her brother and father clean up their own messes and lets her best friend make her own decisions. It's hard for her, but at the same time, its vital. I loved the growth that came with this. Aden slowly becomes stronger as well as more decisive, standing up for herself along the way.

I will say that I enjoyed the focus on relationships here. Jessie includes a variety of important ones: daughter and father, sister and brother, best friends, etc. It was interesting to see how each played a part in Aden's overall life, and I especially liked the introspection that came with each. I thought the unrequited love one was especially well done. It was incredibly bittersweet, and while I didn't like the love interest for the majority of the book, I think the relationship was important for the overall feel.

Now for the bad. As mentioned above, Jessie Hilb sets out to accomplish a lot in THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE, and while I appreciated her determination, the plot and character development suffered as a result. There was A LOT going on here: grief, change, complex relationships, student/teacher relationships, self image, and even teen pregnancy. My head was reeling at times, especially when it came to keeping each storyline straight. The storyline involving Aden's best friend lacked the most development, in my opinion. Honestly, I felt that it was introduced as a shock factor, and I hated that so little time was spent on the fall-out as well as the consequences. Also, I didn't like how some things were swept under the rug. Yes, they sometimes had a conclusion, but it was almost too easy of a conclusion in some respects.

Overall, THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE wasn't what I had expected. In some ways, THE CALCULUS OF CHANGE worked well and other ways it feel short, which was disappointing given the potential it contained.

So do I recommend it? Sort of. I think other YA books cover these topics better; however, I still think fans of gritty, emotionally charged YA may like this.

3 stars

The Calculus of Change is now out! 

Source: eARC provided by publisher 

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Buy Links: 

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Indiebound 


  1. Ahh I'm sorry this wasn't the book for you. It sounded like a good book, but not well-executed. I love all things math too, so I'm disappointed. :(

  2. OMG, calculus was one of my WORST subjects in school! I'm not a math person, I'm in awe of people who are!

    Anyway, I like the idea of the MC moving through her grief and learning to enjoy life again, but yeah, one of my biggest pet peeves is when an author tries to cram too many ideas into one book. I like it when they focus on one or two more in-depth. Hope your next read is better!

  3. Sounds like way too much going on and sometimes that can be confusing, it takes away from the enjoyment of reading it. It’s too bad too, this sounded like it would be a good one.


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