Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Geography Of You And Me, by Jennifer E. Smith


2.25 stars

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.

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.

I think The Geography Of You And Me is one of the few fluffy, light books I’ve given a (slightly) less than average rating for, and one can assume I didn’t find it as entertaining as I thought it would be. That’s partially true, but most of my problems with this book parallel closely with the issues I had with Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between, the last book I’ve read by Jennifer E. Smith, and the only book I’d read at the time by her. This book had so much potential with its concept, but was ultimately disappointing due to the dull storytelling, unrealistic scenarios, and enormous amount of wasted potential.

The story starts out with Lucy and Owen, stuck in an elevator when they realize nearly all of New York has lost power. After finding their way out of the elevator, they stay together, wandering the pitch-black night of New York, talking about their lives and watching the stars. But, after the electricity is back, they realize they are both moving away, traveling and starting new lives. Obviously Lucy and Owen are still in a daze, thinking back to the dream-like night they spent together, and while they vow to keep in touch through email and postcards (a recurring symbol throughout the book), it isn’t enough. Will they ever find their way back to each other?

I do feel like the writing was the downfall of this book. Lucy and Owen were apart for most of the time, and while the descriptions of London, Scotland, and Paris were beautiful, there was a spark missing in their personal lives that was so evidently present when they were together. It is a long-distance “relationship” after all, but Lucy and Owen’s individual lives lacked seriousness and insight, it was pure fluff when it shouldn’t have been. This is was the same problem I had with Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between, while the concept was relatable and common among young adults, the writing and storyline refused to break out of the “light and cute” barrier, when it should have gone to discuss deeper, insightful topics through the stories of the characters. Other than that, I thought Owen and Lucy’s lives were eventful, yet told in a dull, monotonous tone. The POVs are in third person in present time. which I find awkward and the writing overall didn’t have a spark to it, much like the characters.

Lucy and Owen were likable characters. I could relate to Lucy’s shy, inquisitive personality and her ability to inevitably end up lonely. But, I thought her story was a bit superficial, since it didn’t explore her psyche behind Lucy’s loneliness and hurt concerning her parents’ negligence, but perhaps it was the way her background was built in the first place. I’m sure Smith wanted to express the conflict of emotions behind Lucy’s wealthy facade, but the way it was written made me want to say “Oh boo hoo, poor rich girl.” Owen was far more interesting in my opinion, because he demonstrated conflicting emotions consistently throughout the book, considering he was in a dynamic yet static position in his life. The restless situation Owen was in and the relationship him and his father had was so full of strength, pain, and hope, I really wish that was used to its full potential, but Smith stretched farther here than she did in any other part of the book. Owen’s story is definitely the strongest point in this book.

Lucy and Owen had great chemistry in the beginning, the setting and situation they were placed in was a perfect influence to bring out their individual characters, and I loved how they discussed their struggles and bonded over the fact that they both needed someone to lean on. Sadly, since the premise requires them to be apart from each other throughout the entire story, I quickly lost interest in their individual travels and just wanted them to be together again. But, even while they were on their own, the writing was missing the magic and spark that attracted me to Lucy and Owen’s unlikely friendship, so at the end, I didn’t really care whether they found their way back to each other or not. The parallels between Owen and Lucy’s separate stories also bothered me, as they were set up in an entirely unrealistic way, but I guess I should have expected that. Actually, I would say my feelings for the romances in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between and The Geography Of You And Me are more or less the same. They both had great potential, but the romance development is stunted by the individual growth of the characters, who are often unwilling to dig deeper into the complexities of love and distance.

Jennifer E. Smith’s novels have great, unique premises; but they promise us fluff and cuteness when the concept asks for meaning and insight into young adult lives. Maybe I shouldn’t take this aspect so seriously, but I do hope Smith writes something with more seriousness to match its interesting or “deeper” concept. I would recommend this to those searching for a quick dose of brain candy, but if you’re expecting anything more than fluff, don’t come looking for it here.