Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Jennifer E. Smith

Headline, 2012

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of Hadley's life...

Her father is getting married in London to a woman she's never even met, and she's just missed her flight.

Hadley has never believed in destiny or fate before...

But, stuck at the airport in New York, today is also the day she meets Oliver. He's British. He's cute. And he's on her new flight.

Seventeen year old Hadley is on her way to her dad's wedding in London. She hasn't seen her father in a year, and she has no desire to attend the wedding. Not only has she missed her flight, making her late, but she's claustrophobic and dreads the idea of getting on the plane. In the middle of a hot, packed airport, she meets Oliver, who's booked on the same flight.

The book takes place over 24 hours: from Hadley missing her flight, to the last moments of her dad's wedding reception. Though it is billed firmly as a romance, it is equally, if not more, focused on Hadley's issues with her family.

Unfortunately, neither plotline grabbed me fully. I wanted to like this book much more than I did, but from the offset I didn't warm to Hadley's character. She's angry: angry at her mum for making her go to the wedding, angry at the man next to her for getting his newspaper in her face, angry at a woman for not watching her suitcase, and most of all, angry at her dad for leaving, for calling, for not calling, for marrying someone else, for giving her a book... ALL THE ANGER. And though it seemed almost understandable, the tone was so petulant at points, and I knew so little about Hadley other than that she was angry, that it made it difficult to sympathise with her. If anything, I wanted to shake some sense into her.

And then there's Oliver. He's British, so he's cute and says funny words. This is an entirely personal quibble when I say that British guys in YA who are cute and say funny words kind of annoy me, mostly because the funny words aren't a novelty to me. (I don't mind them being British, it just irritates me to have to read "Don't you mean elevator?" over and over.) Anyway - Oliver is sweet and ever so slightly mysterious, but I didn't feel like I ever really got to know anything about him, for all the deep and meaningful conversations he and Hadley have. Although I will say, I had a totally different theory about why he was on the plane, so I was genuinely thrown when his story was revealed.

As the story went on, there were some enjoyable moments. I liked the concept, and the moments on the plane were nice. Smith captured the feeling of being on a transatlantic flight overnight, when nearly everyone else is sleeping, well, and I wouldn't have minded that part of the book being longer. (I like a journey, I guess.)

Hadley became much more likable for me, too, as the book wore on. Her torn emotions came out well, and were believable, once the bitterness had dissipated slightly. The last few chapters, from before the wedding reception onwards, seemed much more genuine and touching to me that what came before. The focus on Hadley and her dad seemed to me much more the point of the story than the romance, and I genuinely enjoyed the last quarter of the book.

I think part of the problem was the time-scale of the book, which made the Hadley/Oliver storyline feel more rushed that I would have liked, which is probably why I didn't care too much what happened between them. It almost felt like two stories: Hadley sorting out her family and personal life, and Hadley meeting Oliver, and though they were woven together well the pace made it seem a little forced at times.

TSPOLAFS is a cute, quick contemporary read. A lot of my issues with it were down to my own personal preferences, rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the book (looking for a church in Paddington? No problem!). It would have been nice to learn a little more about the characters, but if you're looking for something fast and fluffy, this might hit the spot.

Overall rating: 5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

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