Thursday, March 7, 2019
Book Review: "Field Notes on Love" by Jennifer E. Smith
Two hours later I finished the book and I'm so glad I read it. Such a sweet, fun, engaging storyit totally hit the spot!
"Do you ever feel like you need to shake things up? Or just step outside your life for a minute?"
Hugo's life has always been tremendously routine. The youngest of a set of sextuplets, he's always been surrounded by people, and while things can be chaotic, his future path is all but determined, since a generous benefactor provided scholarships for all six children to attend college in Hugo's hometown of Surrey, England. But as much as he loves his family and wants to be close to home, he longs for something more, although he doesn't know what that is.
He and his girlfriend have the perfect plan before she heads off to college in California: they'll travel across the U.S. by train, from New York to California, stopping in a few major cities along the way. And then she breaks up with him, although she gives him the tickets to use. But of course, there's a catch: because she handled the details, all the reservations are under the name of Margaret Campbell. And the tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable.
So, he conducts a search for another Margaret Campbell to make the trip with.
Enter Mae Campbell (Margaret is her full name). Mae has known her entire life that she wanted to be a filmmaker. Yet when she is rejected by USC's film school, she starts to wonder if an adventure is what she needs to stir up her creativity and inspire her next film, so she can convince the film school to let her in. When she sees Hugo's ad searching for another Margaret Campbell, she feels that this is the opportunity she has been looking for, something her adventure-seeking and romance-loving grandmother agrees with.
While Hugo and Mae begin traveling together simply out of necessity and convenience, it isn't long before the two are drawn to one another, and begin to see that adventureand perhaps even romanceis what both were needing. But along the way, they'll learn a lot about themselves and their plans for their future, as both find inspiration to do things differently than they always have.
A few years ago I read Smith's The Geography of You and Me and absolutely loved it. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy her writing style, how warm and approachable it is, and how well she draws her characters. Field Notes on Love is exactly the same waynothing in the plot is particularly surprising, but that doesn't matter, because I couldn't get enough of this book and these characters.
With "love" in the title, you can expect there is lots of talk about what love is and what it means to different people. As a self-professed sap, I enjoyed the exploration of that topic, but found the characters' journeys of self-discovery equally enjoyable. Plus I never felt like Hugo and Mae were too clever and precocious for their own good, which is all too common in YA fiction.
If you're looking for a light read to charm its way into your heart, Field Notes on Love may be just what you're looking for. All aboard!