Release Date: 10/07/ 14
The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.
By the time he learns she's ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness— Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).
In Love and Other Unknown Variables, logical Charlie Hanson often loses his laser-like focus on school and his future when he’s around Charlotte Finch. Case in point: the chick-flick movie festival she convinces him to watch. Charlotte’s smile is a powerful force—one from which Charlie is helpless to resist.
Midway through the second movie, Becca pauses it to use the restroom, leaving Charlotte and me sitting in the dim light of the frozen television screen. My sister sure is a sucky chaperone. Doesn’t she realize how dangerous it is to leave me unsupervised around beautiful girls with infinity tattoos? Charlotte nudges my shoulder with her own. “This is fun. Admit it.” “This is a total chick-fest,” I say motioning toward the TV. “I don’t get what you guys see in these movies. That last one had a terrible ending, and I can already see this one’s going down the same path.” “I admit that Romeo and Juliet are not my favorite couple. Being in love for three days is an easy gig.” “Exactly. They’d probably realize that they hate each other if they spent more time together.” “Or worse,” Charlotte says, hugging a pillow, “they’d grow indifferent and their love would waste away. Nothing lasts forever.” “That’s bleak. Maybe you shouldn’t hang out with me so much. I think I’m rubbing off on you.” Charlotte smacks me with the pillow she was holding. “Shut up, Hanson.” “Now you sound like your sister.” I chuckle and toss the pillow back at her. She retaliates by crashing two pillows around my head like cymbals. “Game on,” I shout, grabbing as many pillows as I can and lobbing them at her one after the other. “Uncle! Uncle,” she squeals, lying buried on the couch. Laughing, I clear away the pillows. Her dark curls are sticking up at odd angles, and I reach out to smooth them back into place. Charlotte catches my hand in hers, and I cup her cheek. It feels as though someone has turned an electromagnet on inside of me. There is a force out of my control pulling me in. Charlotte’s eyes flick to my lips, and I’m undone. I may have been able to resist before, but now I give in to the pulling and press my lips to hers. They are soft, softer than I imagined—better. Her hands are suddenly at my waist, one finger dipping under the edge of my shirt. One finger and I groan like someone is lifting a one hundred pound weight off my chest. My tongue laps at her bottom lip, the one she bites on so much, and she parts her lips just enough for me to taste it myself. A string tightens from my chest to my groin—so taut I can barely breathe. She tastes like sugar, so soft and warm in my mouth, I ache. Her hands slide up my sides and to my chest, where she gently pushes me back as she pulls away. “Wait. We can’t do this.” Without her lips on mine, my body loosens and I catch my breath. “Sorry. Charlotte, I’m so—” “Don’t. But we can’t. I can’t lose—” “What are you guys doing?” Becca calls, walking in through the kitchen. “I heard screaming from the bathroom.” Charlotte’s cheeks darken in the dim light from the TV. A worry flickers across her face. Becca. She can’t lose Becca. Now you’ve done it, Chuck, the Greta in my head snarls. I’ve got to fix this. “Help, Bec,” I shout, jumping away from Charlotte. “Charlotte attacked me. I was just sitting here saying how much I loved this wonderful, romantic film, and WHAM. Pillow to my head.” Charlotte runs a hand through her curls and bites that lip of hers, making me want to groan all over. My expression must be a sight, because she takes one look at me and laughs before smacking me with a pillow. “See? You gotta save me, sis.” Becca chuckles. “You guys are lame.” She takes her seat on one side of Charlotte, who smacks Becca in the face with another pillow before linking their arms. Becca turns the movie back on. And I wonder what might have happened if she’d stayed away just a little longer. The thought of kissing Charlotte again makes me feel like I’m being sucked away into the vacuum of space. Which, if you’re wondering, is painful and scary and leaves me almost breathless. Through the darkness, Charlotte’s hand works its way into the crook of my arm, too. I don’t move for the rest of the movie, afraid that if she lets go, I’ll float away again.
Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife, mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. Math makes her break out in a sweat. Love and Other Unknown Variables is her debut novel. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family.