Saturday, January 7, 2012
Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
It starts when Hadley misses her transatlantic flight to London to attend her father’s second wedding to a woman she’s never met. Luckily for her, the next flight contains Oliver, who’s going home for family-related business. It seems utterly ridiculous to feel such a strong connection to a stranger you’ve known for less than 24 hours, but in between coming to terms with her father’s remarriage and her new definition for “family,” Hadley will find out that anything is possible.
I have been hearing about how wonderful this book is for almost one whole year before I finally got the chance to read it. Not only did THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (er, henceforth known as STATISTICAL) not disappoint, it gave me more than I had expected.
STATISTICAL is sold as a love story, and it is that, to a lovely degree, but then it is also more. The unfolding of Hadley and Oliver’s romance over 24 hours could have been too cloying, too rushed; however, Jennifer Smith paces the story like a pro. As we read the book, we see easily how Hadley and Oliver have an enviable instant connection, but it is not insta-luv, no—rather, the romance unfolds over interesting but not blaringly obvious significant conversations, filled with lots of flashbacks and self-revelations.
Indeed, that, to me, was the best part of the book—the fact that it was not merely a love story, but also one of the most mature and empathic stories about understanding divorce that I’ve ever read. At the start of the book, Hadley is still not over her father’s desertion of her and her mother, to marry a woman she’s never met. But no one is solely the villain or the victim here: throughout informative and understandable flashbacks, Jennifer Smith reveals Hadley’s family’s history, and by the end, readers have strong hopes that things will work out for the best.
I am, unfortunately, super wary of YA romances nowadays, but I like how Smith develops Hadley and Oliver’s connection. Hadley is real: she’s not the silly protagonist who needs a guy to save her, nor is she the petulant teen just ripe for character development. Oliver doesn’t come off as an impossible-to-believe perfect guy: he is, to my heart’s delight, simply an above-average-intelligence college student with the type of familial concern and lighthearted flirting that you can expect out of any guy, given that you give him a chance. And STATISTICAL is Oliver’s chance. I totally dig that, had he not been a main character in this story, he would’ve been just another nice college guy who would eventually end up with his happy ending. In that sense, STATISTICAL felt more like a privileged glimpse into the random encounter of two very ordinary people, and I don’t think I can stress in mere words how lovely that is.
I admit that I had hesitations about how much I’d like this book, despite others singing its praises. Jennifer Smith’s omniscient writing has had its times when it did not work for me in the past. However, for THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, the balance between internal monologue, flashbacks, and present-day action achieved a delectable balance. Channeling the best of authors like David Levithan, Jennifer Smith’s newest novel is one that fans of subtle romances and family dilemmas will surely appreciate.
Cover discussion: It's funky! It's artsy and a little all over the place and a little sweet. Kind of like some cool artwork I'd expect to find in the Village (that's Greenwich Village, in New York City).
Poppy / Jan. 2, 2012 / Hardcover / 256pp. / $17.99
e-review copy received from publisher.