Jennifer E. Smith is a sure thing when it comes to heart-warming, fun YA contemporary romance. Her latest book, The Geography of You and Me, is exactly that. Truly delightful.
This review is of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh 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.
I was a little wary in the first few pages of the book. I am always a little put off by characters who have absolutely NO friends outside their family. Even I, an extreme introvert who moved every couple of years, always had friends. And in this book we are supposed to buy that scenario involving not just one character, but two. And yet Smith made it work for me. Lucy is a loner. She does not really care to be social or hang out with other people besides her brothers. Something I can understand. She had a brief relationship with a boy, but not too serious before meeting Owen. Owen, for his part, used to have friends, but since the death of his mother, has given up on everyone in his former life. He feels to separated from them. Lucy and Owen stumble into each other at the perfect time for both of them, just when they need a connection to someone the most.
The first night they spend together in the dark of the blacked out city is gorgeously described. Smith has knack for the sort of imagery that makes you feel like you are there, the situation is real, and manages to build romantic tension at the same time. All of that is fully employed in the first few chapters. The end is also keenly felt as both Lucy and Owen are snapped quickly back into their chaotic lives and find themselves suddenly on opposite sides of the Atlantic. On a whim they begin sending each other post cards and on Lucy's part, an occasional email. I really enjoyed how this section had them not fixating on the other person though. They were both trying to meet other people in their new locations. They both have relationships with other people too. The cycle of their entire relationship in this book is one I really liked. Most of the time they are apart, a great deal of the book they are not even on "speaking" terms, but I feel like it added to rather than detracted from their relationship, and it made the book about so much more than just a romance. I also liked watching the changes in each of their relationships with the people around them. Lucy's tentative, but growing stronger relationship with her parents was lovely. However, my favorite relationship in the whole book is the one between Owen and his dad. Love these two together so much. There were a couple of scenes between them that had me tearing up. They are both at a loss since the loss of Owen's mom, but they are still together and struggling on. And yes, his father makes some questionable decisions regarding the Owen's education for his senior year, but it is at Owen's (correct) insistence that he has the grades and credits for it to not matter. You don't see many positive father/son relationships like this in YA and it was so refreshing and so well done.
And for me, the book ended in exactly the right way and at exactly the right point. I did think a few little details ironed out a bit too perfectly, but it was exactly right for the tone of the book.
I read an e-galley received by the publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, via NetGalley. The Geography of You and Me will be available for purchase on April 15.