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

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: Poppy, 2012 (Currently Available)

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Face Value: Maybe it’s a little over the top, but I have to admit I really like this cover. The black and white photo is classy, no disembodied humans in sight, and the red heart is just cute enough without crossing a line. Plus I feel like it fits the book well.

Does it Break the Slate? It does, in its own way. Sometimes slates get broken in little increments, and I think there’s something quite powerful about having a novel about a whirlwind romance in which both the boy and the girl are plausible human beings, where the connection between them feels real and where the romance might drive the plot, but its not the only plot. The book isn’t overtly feminist, but Hadley goes on a real emotional journey throughout it and comes out stronger on the other side.

Who would we give it to? Oh, this is a book I’d give to tons of readers. Fans of Sarah Dessen, or Anna and the French Kiss, girls who want to read a sweet and sincere romance that is grounded in real, human issues and relationships.

Review: The whole of this book takes place in about 24 hours, and yet it never feels forced. Hadley Sullivan (I’m predisposed to like her, since we share a last name) misses her plane to London by four minutes and has to take a later flight. She’s not all that excited about the trip anyway, since she’s traveling to be in her father’s wedding and meeting his new wife for the first time. This new wife, by the way, is the reason her dad left her mom and took up permanent residence in England, so Hadley’s less than enthused. She hasn’t forgiven her father for leaving her mother and is still reeling from the emotional fallout from the divorce. But on the plane, she finds herself seated next to Oliver, a handsome British stranger who has his own baggage to deal with. The two of them connect on the flight over, and then in other ways once they both arrive in London.

I think what makes this book work so well is how likable and relatable Hadley is. She’s funny and sarcastic and has enough self-awareness to recognize some of her own failings but not so far as to fix them. She’s not sulking – she’s dealing. There’s a difference.

Also, the bigger circumstances in Hadley’s life are their own story, not just a backdrop to the romantic entanglements. Watching Hadley and her parents deal with the after-effects of divorce is terrifically, emotionally rendered, with small details that pack in a lot more about the story. Take this moment, when Hadley looks into the church, set up for the ceremony:

“She glances at the pews as she walks past; little bouquets of flowers, tied off with silk ribbons, are balanced on the end of each one. The candles at the front of the church make everything look slightly magical, and the sophistication of the whole thing, the stylish elegance of it, is in such stark contrast to Dad’s old life that Hadley’s honestly not sure whether to be confused or insulted.”

Short moments like this, sprinkled throughout the book, give such clear insight into Hadley’s experiences and reactions, that even though the whole book only actually takes place in the span of one day, we get a much bigger picture of her reality.

The emotional resolution in this part of the story actually, is the part that I find especially slatebreaking. It takes a lot of personal strength to be able to forgive somebody, and mean it, and I really respected that Hadley stands her ground, but is ultimately able to come to a sincere place of forgiveness and understanding. There’s no magical fix, and the reconnection between father and daughter doesn’t come easily. But it does come, and I appreciated the work that has to go into it.

I love the idea of a romantic encounter on a plane with a sexy British man, but I have to admit that it could never happen to me. As much as Hadley and I might have in common, we differ in that I take all possible measures to ensure that I don’t have to talk to strangers on planes. It feels weird to make conversation in such an open space – I don’t even like talking to the people I’m traveling with. I usually just want to read my book and arrive as soon as possible. On several occasions I’ve worn headphones without anything playing, just to give the illusion that I’m otherwise occupied to potential conversationalists. Still, there was something immensely pleasurable about imagining a fantasy world where not only would I want to talk to the person next to me, but that that person would be Oliver, a sincerely charming and incredibly likable romantic interest. This book is Hadley’s story, but Oliver is well written, and the sparks between them feel personal, not just like generic romance.

Reviewed from copy borrowed from a friend! Thanks Trish!

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