by Ann LaBar
Publication: March 30, 2021
Prom Theory reminds me of classic teen movies like Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and She’s All That. There’s the regular lead, the best friend(s), the popular potential interest, and the popular rival. They’re all variations of the same teen romance and I can’t ever get enough of them. Prom Theory also adds its own twists to the story. Iris Oxtabee isn’t interested in Theo Grant, the popular athlete who recently became single, but she is interested in proving to her best friend Seth/Squeak that love, like many things, is a product of science and can be explained through the use of the scientific method. She comes up with a social experiment to get Theo to ask her to prom, which will also help her other friend Esther to get her crush to ask her to prom.
I’m always excited to see diversity in all its forms. In this case, we have a neurodiverse protagonist in Iris. She has nonverbal learning disability (NVLD), which has many traits associated with autism. Individuals with NVLD struggle with social skills, with one difficulty being an inability to fully comprehend social cues (NVLD.org). Science and structure help Iris to make sense of the world. It’s why she is committed to her experiment and unwilling to put an end to it even after she recognizes things aren’t going exactly as planned.
I also couldn’t help but crush on how sweet Squeak/Seth was. Prom Theory succeeded in giving me butterflies because Squeak/Seth is really sweet. While he is Iris’s best friend, there are multiple hints throughout the book that he might possibly see her as more than a friend. He goes above and beyond to be with her when she needs him, and I was completely all for it. Can we have more sweet best friend/potential love interests like this?
Despite how much I liked it, by about halfway I was ready for several things to happen. I needed the experiment to come to an end or at least be interrupted, preferably indefinitely. I was ready for Iris to pay better attention to her experiment and all the things that weren’t going the way she planned it. I appreciated the thoroughness in Iris’s experiment but it became redundant (for reading purposes) after a while. She would implement a new variable and readers would get to read the experience. Then there would be observations written down by Iris and Esther, and the process would start over again. This continued for many chapters.
Iris is super smart for someone her age and has taken a psychology course so…it wouldn’t be a stretch for her to know about human subjects regulations and the difficulty of determining the effect of a variable when dealing with human subjects. There is a lot of variability in a social experiment, especially when the environment cannot be easily controlled. I am sure I am just being nit picky but I had to put it out there since science is her thing.
I needed Squeak to stop being so evasive and just spit it out. What I wasn’t a fan of was his insistence that she understand certain nonverbal social cues. Uh, hello? You’re her bff and knows she doesn’t do very well with them but you expected what now?
It’s a cute story, and I came away with a lot of fluttery feelings. I was also stretched thin with frustration so couldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. If you like teen romances, Prom Theory puts its spin on it but also be prepared to be a bit frustrated as well.