When Hadley misses her flight to London for her father’s wedding, she’s fairly distraught. Not because she’s particularly worried about missing the wedding–she has made it fairly clear she’s unhappy about her father leaving her and her mother–but because she’s stuck in JFK, hates to fly, and still has to try to make it to the ceremony. Then she meets Oliver, a cute, British boy on his way to London…and in the same seat row as her.
Too often, stories use the trite “meet-cute” as a way to distract from a lack of quality content. This is not the case in Jennifer E. Smith’s fast-paced, smartly observant novel about an unhappy teen falling in love and making peace with her family. Instead of serving as a way to distract from lackluster characters and plot, the novel’s short time frame (everything takes place over the course of 24 hours) and “what are the odds” approach to the love story add dimension to a very strong story about first love and family.
The novel is fast-paced, entertaining, and smart. The banter between Hadley and Oliver reads as quick and authentic. Hadley herself could easily fall into unlikeable protagonist territory: she’s held onto her anger at her father for a long time, and it’s made her bitter, but Smith handles this with a grace that allows readers to sympathize with Hadley while also hoping for her to let some of it go. The narrative arc allows for just that, but it’s never didactic and doesn’t feel emotionally manipulative. There are several nice moments with both of her parents that make this novel more than a simple romance: there’s some good stuff about families here, too.
Cynical readers might notice that there are certainly more compelling problems than the ones that Hadley faces, but that’s not really the point here. This is a sweet, entertaining story whose immediacy is heightened by the condensed time frame. Smart, well-written, and memorable, this is definitely a recommended read to teens and adults who enjoy contemporary tales.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. Poppy/Little Brown: 2012. Library copy.