Joshua Bailey is a prodigy. Only seventeen, Joshua is a doctoral candidate, the author of several revolutionary patents, the youngest-ever recipient of the McArthur Foundation Genius Grant, and the darling of his university. Raised alone by the stern and steady hand of his father, an obscure physicist with dreams of greatness, Joshua is crushed with loneliness and comes within a breath of committing suicide. Instead he decides to wait a single year to turn all of his talent to a search for life's meaning. He relies only on his profound mathematical intuition into the patterns governing our universe - which is the only way he knows to find purpose - until he meets Lindy Coult. A young painter, eccentric and headstrong, Lindy becomes Joshua's first true friend and his first love. Through her he begins to learn that the beauty of life, the beauty of love, and the beauty of numbers are all the same. Pulling against the powerful force of his father and on the verge of dramatic discovery, Joshua draws nearly to last minute of his self-imposed deadline and finds himself facing the one question no one has ever taught him how to solve: What is the human equation?