{Blog Tour} Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Geography of You and Me
Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Headline | Poppy
Date of Publication: April 15, 2014

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.


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Frances of Headline for the review copy! This in no way affected my views of the novel.

So for those of you who don't know, I'm the founder administrator of Jennifer E. Smith PH, the Philippine street team for Jennifer E. Smith,  her books, and the community for fellow Jen fans and lovers. That's how much I adore Jen's books! That's why it's totally not surprising that I loved THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME.

I think it was fitting that I started reading it in the airport, waiting for my flight. Then I read it on the plane and I finished it before going to sleep. And it was such a lovely reading experience and I shouldn't have doubted Jen. I've been hearing some so-so reviews and comments on TGoYaM because apparently, it was "slightly boring". While I do get why some people might have been bored with this book (e.g. third-person perspective, the protagonists weren't even in the same continent most of the time, why are they sending postcards - there's technology, etc.), I still found the book magical with Jen's trademark writing. I will defend this book with the best of my ability!

Lucy and Owen met when New York experienced a blackout, leaving them stuck in the elevator. Lucy has been living in the same apartment building all her life and she can be considered an expert in being stuck in the elevator. But never during a blackout. Owen just moved into the basement of Lucy's apartment building, as he's the son of the building's new manager. He feels so out of place in New York City and never imagined he'd be stuck in an elevator so soon.

That night, after they were rescued, they share this one-of-a-kind night where there's no electricity all over the city, when ice creams are free and an exodus of people are walking back home. Subways are down, there's no light except for emergency lights and flashlights and the heat suffocating. Two interesting people meet in an interesting situation but when everything goes back to normal, they don't know how to act around each other. Simply, the magic of the blackout was gone. Before they even get to fix what's between them (or might become something between them), they're trajectories are both moving away. Lucy moves to Edinburgh while Owen moves west with his father in search of a stable job. So even before the romance could develop and start, they were chucked out of each other's reach, only communicating via postcards and the occasional email.

So why postcards? Is it me but don't you think postcards are sentimental and sweet? Lucy and Owen talked about the banality of postcards but they ended up realizing how postcards actually convey what they want to say to each other. "Wish you were here" when they truly wish the other's with them. Plus, (and Owen explains this) postcards take time to arrive, unlike the email which you receive in just a ping. With their undefined relationship, it just rang true and sensible to me that they'd just send postcards to each other. With email, they might be starting something while they're continents away, which isn't exactly smart. But postcards are casual and to receive one, isn't that so joyous? (I know I love postcards.) In my opinion, them sending postcards, while not conventional, wasn't just a plot device.

Then we have those who aren't much fans of this because Lucy and Owen weren't together physically most of the time. While I also wish for more personal physical interaction between the two of them, that isn't the plot of the novel. The novel shows us that a relationship can materialize even if you're halfway across the globe. That even if you have someone near you and you like them, your heart and mind can be thinking and yearning for another person far, far away. That was the sweetest thing for me in this novel. It felt like Lucy and Owen are moving farther and farther away from each other but in reality, their hearts were moving even closer. And their relationship was far from perfect; they were far from perfect themselves. Lucy had a guy in Scotland and Owen had a girl too but when they met again, it was just undeniable that what they had was something different. Then they fought multiple of times but they just couldn't shake each other off their lives. Then they're separated yet again. They definitely have a challenge mapped out in their future and while the odds are stacked against us, it's the kind of romance you just savor. Even if they don't end up together HEA-style in the far future, for me, the peek we got of their intertwining lives and their journey (however impossible it was), was a journey I'll never ever exchange.

As with Jen's other novels, Lucy and Owen have their own hang-ups and problems, usually of the familial kind. Owen's mother died and Lucy's pretty much living in her apartment alone. They have different backgrounds and as they travel and share postcards to each other, they also share a bit of themselves every time. They reveal what they feel, their problems and what things they wish for. 

I find third-person perspective hard to get into but even with just the first page of TGoYaM, I sighed with relief because I just love Jen's writing. It sounds playful, with some hidden comic and light tones, but simply written. Yet, when you read it, it's just different. I hate using the word magical but I just can't think of a word that encapsulates what I feel when I read her novels. It takes me into a different place, that's for sure. It feels wistful, like I'm in a different world where I'd rather be stuck in an elevator during a blackout. It's just, you have to read it for yourself.

Jennifer E. Smith cements her place in the contemporary YA landscape with THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME, yet another solid novel on her belt. The Geography of You and Me will take you to London, Paris, Scotland, California, Michigan and everywhere else, grabbing your heart without you knowing it. At the end of it, you'll feel the urge to travel, live and love. Such a great read.

About Jennifer E. Smith

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into 28 languages.

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