Book: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Description: Stand-alone YA contemporary
Publishing Information: Released April 15, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
First Sentence: On the first day of September, the world went dark.
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(taken from the dust jacket)
Lucy lives on the twenty-fourth floor. Own lives in the basement. It’s fitting, then, that they meet in the middle – stuck between two floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, Lucy and Own spend the night wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is back, so is reality. Lucy soon moves abroad with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.
The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives that them to Edinburgh and to San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland, Lucy and Owen stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and phone calls. But can they – despite the odds – find a way to reunite?
Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. Sometimes, it can be a person.
Cover Review: This is a very typical Jennifer E. Smith cover. They always looks a little cheesy, but hey – so are the stories in inside it. I don’t mind it.
I’ve read three of Smith’s books now (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like). Unfortunately, I’d have to say that this one was my least favorite.
That isn’t to say that I completely hated it, because I didn’t. It just didn’t measure up to what I was hoping for, based on her other novels.
The story is exactly what the synopsis says it is. Two people meet in an elevator, spend a day together, and then are separated. There was nothing amazingly cute or ground-breaking within this novel.
From the beginning, a running theme of postcards is developed. Lucy has a collection of postcards sent to her by her parents from all of the places that they’ve been to, and when Lucy and Owen are separated they continue the trend of sending postcards to each other. Except, they’re literally moving all of the world from each other. Lucy had a card forwarded to Owen’s old house that they had just sold, and it just so happened that Owen returns home for the first time in a very long time a couple days after it was sent. The book was filled with so many convenient coincidences and parallels that it quickly went from seeming like adorable fate to kind of lazy writing that didn’t want to make anything work out in a more realistic fashion.
On the subject of parallels, the second half of the book was ridiculously filled with them. Like…
In bed that night, Lucy breathed in.
In the car that afternoon, Owen breathed out.
It wouldn’t bother me if both of those chapters had started the same way but continued on different paths, leading us to learn more about the characters and develop side-plots away from their romance. What bothers me is that those sentences are literally the entire chapter. That’s all it is. The chapter headings are always only on the right side of the page, so not only is each chapter only a sentence long, but then there’s a striped page with no words on it on the next page, and then another sentence long chapter, and blank page. This went on for nine chapters, people. I have no problem with uniquely formatted books, but I just don’t think it was done very well in this instance. It made the narrative feel really choppy when it was used. Fortunately, most of the book was told in a more traditional way.
Another huge issue I had with this book is that I honestly didn’t really like Lucy and Owen as a couple. They barely got to know each other in that one day after they were stuck in the elevator, but it’s enough to make them be sure to send each other postcards when they move across the world from each other and think about each other enough to fill an entire book with their romance. It was definitely insta-love. Both characters start to fall in love with someone else once they’re in separate places, and I liked those two relationships much more than Lucy and Owen’s. But maybe that’s just me.
Look, I’m a sucker for fast-paced contemporaries, and this was just that. However, it wasn’t much more, and left me feeling pretty “meh” about it. It was a fun little read, so if you’re hoping to pick it up, don’t let me stop you. However, I don’t think it’s anything you need to make sure to read. If you’re looking to read a Jennifer E. Smith book, I would sooner recommend The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.