Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and MeMeeting cute doesn’t get much cuter than this: Two Manhattan teen-aged loners get stuck in an elevator together during a city-wide blackout. Perfect, right?

For Lucy and Owen, the stuck elevator is just the beginning of a magical night. Once freed, they roam the streets and their building with no parents, no electricity, and no interference from normal daily life. They go up to the roof and watch the stars, they talk, and they dream. And the next day, it’s all over — but each is permanently marked by their brief time together.

Meanwhile, Lucy and Owen each have some real life drama as well. Lucy is the youngest child of busy, successful, jet-setting parents, who seem to think nothing of leaving her home alone while they travel the world, sending postcards from every perfect tourist destination they visit. Owen and his father have been drifting for months since Owen’s mother died in a car accident, and the sadness of their lives is overwhelming.

Lucy and Owen are deeply lonely people, and the connection they feel is sudden and strong. But their family ties pull them apart almost immediately, and though they keep up a connection via goofy “wish you were here” postcards, their paths seem to take them further and further away from one another. Was their connection a fluke? Is it just an illusion? Should they forget about it and move on along their new paths, or is the chemistry between them something worth trying to recapture?

The Geography of You and Me is a light and charming young adult romance, but it doesn’t skimp on real dilemmas and honest conflicts. Family loyalty is explored, and the parent-child relationships here are complex and sad. Lucy and Owen both have imperfect parents in their lives, and each has to step up in ways that might seem unfair, yet they love their parents and want more than anything to make their family lives work out. Both characters dream of each other, yet each is also determined to move forward, to find happiness, and to find a place to fit in.

I liked both main characters quite a bit. They’re smart and devoted, wise for their years yet not above being silly and spontaneous. Over the course of the novel, we see them grow and change, and their trajectories feel real. The storyline never sags, and despite spending most of the story apart, the connection between Lucy and Owen is always present between the lines.

My only quibble with this book is less about the book itself and more about overall trends. Perhaps this book might have grabbed me a little bit more or felt fresher if I hadn’t read Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and Just One Year recently. The Geography of You and Me treads familiar ground, focusing as it does on two characters who seem destined to get together, but spend most of the story apart, struggling to reconnect. As with the Forman books, it’s the journey that counts, and the ending scenario is remarkably similar. I feel like the trend of keeping characters apart and ending with a reunion is becoming more prevalent in contemporary young adult fiction, and unfortunately, that means that even when there’s one that succeeds, it may not feel entirely new or different.

That doesn’t mean that The Geography of You and Me isn’t worth reading; it certainly is. It’s fun, sweet, and even touching, and it’s quite a fast read as well, so you’ll be tempted to read it straight through to keep the storyline flowing along. This tale of connection and belonging is entertaining and never sappy. If you enjoy teen love stories with a hip, urban feel, this is definitely a book to check out.

Want to know about another Jennifer E. Smith book? Here’s my review of This Is What Happy Looks Like.


The details:

Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Library


Wishlist Wednesday

Welcome to Wishlist Wednesday!

The concept is to post about one book from our wish lists that we can’t wait to read. Want to play? Here’s how:

  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Do a post about one book from your wishlist and why you want to read it.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of the post at Pen to Paper.
  • Put a link back to Pen to Paper somewhere in your post.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My wishlist book this week is:

The Geography of You and Me

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
(release date April 2014)

From Amazon:

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and twelfth floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Why do I want to read this?

I’ve read and enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith’s two previous young adult books, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like (reviewed here). In both, we meet likable, unusual characters who fall in love — but with clever twists, a few obstacles, and quite a lot of intelligence. I really enjoy the author’s writing style, the light, upbeat approach, and the sweet romance of it all.

Plus, those titles! I’m a sucker for a book with a great catchy title, and this is yet another good one. Count me in!

What’s on your wishlist this week?

So what are you doing on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks LikeTalk about the perfect summer book! I dare you to read This Is What Happy Looks Like without dreaming about beaches, fireworks, ice cream cones, and a salty sea breeze or two.

In this sweet, romantic young adult novel, Ellie and Graham meet by accident (or rather, by e-accident). When Ellie gets a random email from a stranger asking her to walk Wilbur, the dog-lover in her just has to respond and let the sender know there’s been a mistake. (Otherwise, poor Wilbur!). What follows next is a charming email exchange that starts light and flirty and ends up as a soul-baring correspondence, in which these two share everything except their full identities.

Little does Ellie know that Graham is actually Graham Larkin, movie star and teen heart-throb (I picture the teen-aged Zac Efron), sighed over by millions of teen girls around the world. Graham’s a bit new to the superstar gig and is hungry for real connection, and for once, he’s found someone to talk to who isn’t wowed by the Hollywood glamor. So when Graham’s newest movie needs to find a new filming location, Graham’s quick to jump in and suggest the small coastal town of Henley, Maine… where a certain someone happens to live. Graham hasn’t told Ellie who he really is, and he’s hoping madly that their amazing virtual connection will translate into real life.

Ellie, meanwhile, lives a contented life with her mother in Henley, but dreams of going to Harvard to study poetry this summer, if only she can scrape the funds together to pay for it. She’s not particularly starstruck, and is more annoyed by the film crews taking over her hometown than eager to catch a glimpse of the stars. But when Graham finally catches up with Ellie, after a brief delay caused by a teeny case of mistaken identity, it’s clear to see that Graham and Ellie do have chemistry, and then some. The question is, can a small-town girl and a Hollywood star find romance and a relationship, despite the never-ending cameras and paparazzi just dying for some good gossip?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is light and breezy, and there isn’t much doubt that there will be some sort of happy ending. I mean, a book with the word “happy” in the title can’t exactly get too tragic, can it? Still, it’s not all fluff. Ellie and Graham both have family issues to sort out, and there’s some real heart in their thoughts about the paths their lives have taken so far, how they want to live, and what role their parents can and should play in their lives.

A plot thread concerning Ellie’s estranged father is a bit extraneous to the main storyline and seemed liked needless filler to me. While providing much of the fodder for any sort of obstacle to the romance (and every good romance needs to overcome an obstacle or two, right?), the pieces about Ellie’s father — her search for him, her assessment of his role in her life, and her mother’s backstory — didn’t feel as important to me as they’re made to be in the story. In fact, I think the story might have worked a bit better without this element entirely.

Beside that, however, I really enjoyed TIWHLL (sorry, can’t keep typing that title out any longer!) Especially coming on the heels of my previous read, which was beautiful but incredibly painful, it truly felt like a breath of fresh air to read this summery romance. Light and airy, full of characters with good hearts and good intentions, this really is a terrific summer read. I wanted only the best for Ellie and Graham — and I absolutely pined for a summer vacation on the coast of Maine, preferably with my feet in the surf and an ice cream cone in my hand. Bliss!