Bailey’s debut novel follows human versions of six trigonometric functions as they intersect in the final weeks of a college school year.
Sin, Cos, Tan, Sec, Cot, and Csc are all students at Unit University, a school whose buildings are cleverly arranged in a perfect circle. Each character has a unique personality, based on his or her characteristics as a mathematical function, as well as hopes and dreams for the end of the school year. Sec, a star college basketball player, has his eyes on Cos, so he enlists the help of self-doubting but computer-savvy Csc to help win her over. Cos, however, is more interested in the moody, mysterious, and driven Sin. Tan, a headstrong architecture student, wants to win an upcoming design contest to have her building constructed on the campus, but she needs the help of the inconsistent Cot, a graduate civil engineering student, to survey the plot of land. While visiting the campus dating website Unit Match, Cos finds a complementary profile that, unfortunately, doesn’t list the person’s name. There’s an invitation to meet on the profile, but it doesn’t list a location—only a date and time. Cos realizes that the owner of the profile has created a test, and she tries to figure it out with Tan’s help. These characters’ machinations do lead up to the titular tryst, but the plot meanders to its conclusion without much suspense. Still, Bailey admirably weaves in discussions of other, lesser-known uses for the functions involving the phases of the moon, the arc of a basketball shot, and architectural planning, filling the book with intriguing facts and tidbits. The characterizations, however, are somewhat odd: at some points, the characters are shown to be aware of their status as functions, at others, they’re simply ordinary college students navigating social dramas. The pairing-off of the various players, based on their properties, is a clever device, and most compelling with the well-defined characters, such as Sin and Cos. Other relationships seem forced, though, and defined by mathematics alone.
This novel’s quirky concept will please math buffs and beginning trigonometry students, but it may wear thin for others.