The Geography Of You And Me
Jennifer E. Smith
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
It’s a sweltering day in New York City and Lucy has gone downstairs to collect the mail. It’s one of the first times that her parents have left her at home when they’ve gone off to travel – normally Lucy has her elder twin brothers for company but they recently left to begin college out in California, leaving her all alone. She steps into the elevator and between the 10th and 11th floor, the power goes out. Not just to the elevator, not just to the building but to the entire city.
Also in the elevator is Owen, the son of the building’s super. He’s just moved to New York from Pennsylvania and it’s very different to what he’s used to. After they are rescued from the elevator, Lucy and Owen escape the oppressive heat in the building and spend one night together. As Lucy introduces him to some of the things she loves about New York, they eat free ice cream and then Owen shows her a place that’s close to where she’s always lived but is somewhere she’s never been, giving her a new perspective.
But before anything more can happen, life wrenches them in different directions. Lucy’s dad is posted to Edinburgh and Owen’s dad and the super job don’t work out. They take to the road with no real destination in mind, stopping here and there, looking for somewhere where Owen’s father can get work and they can settle down. Owen sends Lucy postcards and she sends him emails. Things go wrong and get off track but then they find themselves coming back to each other and a reunion in the city where it all began.
A couple of years ago I read Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and absolutely loved it. I immediately bought two of her other books and while they were okay, none reached the heights of TSPoLaFS for me. I didn’t read her next book but when I saw this one, the cover reminded me so much of TSPoLaFS and I thought I’d read it in the hopes that I might find a similarly cute contemporary love story and I think this one is almost there for me, but not quite. There’s a lot to like – the way that Lucy and Owen meet, each of them currently isolated in their environment. Lucy’s brothers have left for college, her parents are in Paris. Owen and his father have just moved to New York after a tragedy and on the day of the blackout, his father is undertaking a personal errand, something that means a lot to him and that he has to do alone. Owen hasn’t really settled in New York yet and Lucy is a passionate New York fan. When they get chatting, it seems a natural progression for them to spend the blackout together, Lucy sharing some of what makes her love New York so much. It’s quite clear that the time they spend together is definitely heading somewhere, but before that can happen, both Lucy and Owen are wrenched away from New York at pretty much the same time.
And so they spend a large portion of the book not only in different cities but different countries as Lucy’s father is transferred to Edinburgh. Owen and his father hit the road, seeing parts of America, looking for a place to settle down that works for them. I think that the first part of the book worked for me, with them spending time together and getting to know each other but the second part (which is quite a large chunk of the book) didn’t really so much. Both Lucy and Owen get jerked around a lot by their parents (although in Owen’s case, it’s much more understandable and for more serious reasons) but luckily Owen is some kind of wunderkind who already has enough credits to graduate and get accepted to every college he applies for even though he attends several schools in the last year and misses schooling as well. Lucy, who wasn’t popular in New York and didn’t have many friends, finds herself the recipient of attention from one of the most popular boys in her new Edinburgh school and both Lucy and Owen sort of move on away from each other, although they still keep in very loose contact. When they do meet up briefly in California, Lucy is outraged that Owen has a girlfriend, or at least a girl he is seeing/close to completely forgetting that she basically has a boyfriend. Her outburst was so weirdly hypocritical – neither of them were promised to the other, both had found other people to spend time with and yet she’s mad at him for that. It really didn’t make much sense or endear me too much to Lucy as a character.
I think this book had real glimpses of promise but it might’ve worked better if the first section was longer, focusing more on the time they spend together and had the two characters get even more (emotionally) intimate with each other. After it split them up, I have to admit that I did find it difficult to maintain my interest at the same level and large portions of the story seemingly added little to the plot development. Lucy’s relationship with her parents is also portrayed one way for most of the story then is resolved so quickly and to little satisfaction. It feels rushed and Lucy’s mother’s character doesn’t feel believable or genuine, it reads more like the author realised she never really had the characters address it and decided to wrap it up and make it better within a page.
All in all, this is a book that is just okay for me.
Book #78 of 2014