Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Jennifer E. Smith has managed, with The Geography of You and Me, to write a YA romance that is a lot more about coming of age and finding your way then it is all the traditional dramaramaof teen love. Frankly, this is a story that readers who have little interest in romance will actually enjoy which is great. It's about connecting with somebody, about finding someone you like and getting to know them (in the most old fashioned of ways - through postcards!) rather than the sort of "he loves me/I love him/maybe I love another him more/tingly kisses/heavy petting" love triangle business that seems to be everywhere. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.)

For a large part of The Geography of You and Me Lucy and Owen aren't even in the same country, let alone dating. The novel dwells more on the sudden connections that people can make and their sometimes surprising staying power. This might make it the most romantic of all scenarios after all but that is neither here nor there. It's a good read with good characters and a lot to say about family and that is what mattered to me and why I enjoyed it.
Lucy and Owen meet in an elevator in their NYC apartment building during a power failure. Lucy's wealthy parents are in London, her older brothers have just left for college and she is alone. Owen's father is the building's new superintendent, his much loved mother recently died in accident and he has just moved to the city. They have little in common but proximity and general niceness means they end up talking for hours. After being rescued their conversation continues and it looks like a relationship might develop. But then Lucy is whisked away to London to join her parents and Owen's father loses his job and they embark a on road trip west. Just like that the teens end up separated by thousands of miles with postcards (and occasional emails) providing their only link.

Smith has created very likeable characters and the plot is unique - cute meet, but separated long before anything meaningful develops. Their parents are kind people although all going through their own issues (which are worked out along the way), and Lucy and Owen are not so caught up in each other that they pine away; both actually end up dating other people. But there is something there, something that prevents them from severing ties with each other. Exploring that potential, as well as their own futures (each is thinking of college), is what propels the narrative along. The ending is happy but not all tied up. Mostly, it is an ending with possibility which is what makes The Geography of You and Me one of the more realistic YA titles I have read in a long long time.

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