The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine

We review the fifth of this year’s nominees for the Book of the Year


Coralie Colmez is a french author and mathematics tutor. The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine (Amazon UK, Waterstones, is her young adult novel about a maths-loving teenage girl.


The book is written from the point of view of Clara Valentine, a teenage girl who is applying to study maths at university. It follows her and her friends doing everything you’d expect a group of teenagers to do over a couple of weeks: going to school, romancing, and attempting to take down a maths-obsessed hacking collective. The story is really entertaining and you may find yourself unable to put it down.


The mathematical content of The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine is part of the story: during their adventures the teenagers come across a number of mathematical problems that they need to solve. The explanations of the solutions to these puzzles are blended into the story expertly and feel like part of it rather than being shoe-horned in. There was only one point when the maths took me slightly out of the story (when Clara’s younger sister explained a bit of maths in a clearer manner than most people twice her age could; although if it wasn’t explained in this way, it would’ve been truly baffling for a reader seeing the maths for the first time) but I was trying overly hard to be critical as I knew I had a review to write once I finished it.


The only other book I have read that does such a good job of blending maths into a fictional narrative is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time—a book that has sparked a mathematical interest in many young adults. The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine has the potential to do this too, and I expect it to be commonly cited in a few years’ time as the reason quite a few people decided to study maths.


If you are related to any teenage girls who are even vaguely interested in maths, you should buy this book for them immediately. If you don’t you should buy it for yourself instead: you’ll love it.

The end of the book appears to leave the possibility of a sequel open. We look forward to reading it.


You can vote for your favourite book on the Book of the Year shortlist below. The winning book will be crowned the Chalkdust Readers’ Choice. Voting closes at 1pm (BST) on Saturday 31 March.

What is your favourite book on the 2022 Book of the Year shortlist?

  • An Introduction to the Math of Voting Methods by Brendan W Sullivan (44%, 101 Votes)
  • Peculiar Deaths of Famous Mathematicians by Ionna Georgiou and Asuka Young (19%, 44 Votes)
  • Congruent Triangles by X and Y (15%, 35 Votes)
  • Escape from Model Land by Erica Thompson (8%, 18 Votes)
  • Math Games with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin (7%, 16 Votes)
  • A Ring of Cats and Dogs (and Other Curious Puzzles) by Daniel Griller (7%, 15 Votes)
  • The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine by Coralie Colmez (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Beyond Measure by James Vincent (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 230

Loading ... Loading ...

More from Chalkdust