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

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

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

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

As with every young adult book ever written, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has such wildly varying reviews it was impossible to know whether I’d like it or not. Turns out I liked it more than I expected.

Much of this book’s appeal to me was that I, too, in my later teens, caught an international flight to London on my own and ended up hanging out with a young English guy on the way. Unlike this story, I severely doubt it was true love – in fact I can’t even remember the guy’s name. However, it was a setup for a story that I wanted to read.

The book is – unusually – written in third person present tense, which was a little odd at first, but once I got used to it, it worked well for the story. As the entire thing happens over only one day, the immediacy of the tone worked.

A book billed as a teen romance with an English guy, starring an American heroine, is likely to be a little clichéd, and this is something I worried about going in. However – for the most part – I found the British language and the descriptions pretty accurate, with a few exceptions (e.g. I lived in London for years, and nobody walked around saying everything was ‘grand’.) But more on that later.

The book’s heroine is travelling to London for her father’s wedding. A couple of years earlier he travelled to Oxford on a poetry fellowship, met another woman, and abandoned his wife and daughter to stay in England.

Much of the story deals with the reconciliation between father and daughter. I think the father’s character was written better than any other in the story – but this is a bit of a problem. The guy is made out to be so sympathetic, and the author is obviously determined to manipulate us into feeling sorry for him.

It worked: I loved the guy. And I don’t think that was fair, considering what he did to ruin other people’s lives. Sometimes, I think, an author has a responsibility to not characterise the “bad guy” so we love him (new adult authors, I’m looking at you!).

So: to the Britain-versus-America theme.

Firstly, let me say that I think the language barriers were handled well. I generally can’t stand those ‘isn’t it cute how Brits speak differently!’ scenes, but in this book the author managed to portray the differences without falling into that trap. I also think that, as we saw the story from the American heroine’s perspective, she could be forgiven for some of her clichéd assumptions, especially as she learnt as she went on.

On the other hand:

London isn’t the jolly little fantasy land of mid-twentieth century children’s shows. It isn’t Mary Poppins. In Paddington you’re more likely to find speciality shops with Arabic writing on the signs than a vintage little chippy on every corner, and Westminster is crowded, multicultural, bustling, and chaotic on a quiet day; not quaint.

Talking to a stranger (hell, even making eye contact with a stranger!) in London is considered a huge social no-no, but here we have dear old brolly-toting ladies pottering about the Tube, helping our heroine out.

And no, most people in the world don’t shove wedding cake in each other’s faces!

I think it’s always easier to find faults and discuss those than to talk about what you loved, and I think I’ve done this here!

I will say two things: Jennifer E. Smith surprised me with her writing, and I definitely intend to seek more of it out.

And: never rely on Goodreads reviews to pick young adult reads. They’re as drama-filled as the books!

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as “criminal” and “freak.” Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

I first read this book years ago, and remember really liking it. It is probably a more mature book than Elkeles hugely popular Perfect Chemistry, with more complicated characters. I love that the characters don’t always make the best decisions, as they’re still teenagers, and still distrustful of many adults.

However, when I first read it I had all the twists and turns ruined by an inconsiderate Goodreads reviewer who wrote out the book’s ENTIRE plot without spoiler tags. And this is one book where you do not want everything spoilt in advance!

Coming back to Leaving Paradise after a long time, I could appreciate the plot more, and I found I liked it as much as I did in the past.

Told from both Caleb and Maggie’s point of view, the book begins as both characters return to school after a year away – Caleb because he was in prison, and Maggie because of her serious injuries after being hit by the car Caleb went to prison for driving.

Of course, it is impossible to stay away from each other in a small town, and soon the two of them – both wanting to get away from all the people who don’t understand how they’ve changed – end up spending time together.

This is the ultimate setup for teen angst, but I didn’t find it overdone.

I do find the high school (and also university/college) culture depicted in many young adult and new adult books odd. Why are people in their late teens (and even early twenties) still doing the “popular kid”, “bully”, and “clique” things? Shouldn’t they have grown out of that by now?

The conclusion of Leaving Paradise does wrap many things up, but it is also not your standard young adult romance ending. There is a second book about these characters, also good but a little different, if you want to see what becomes of Caleb and Maggie.

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

Caleb Becker left Paradise eight months ago, taking with him the secret he promised to take to his grave. If the truth got out, it would ruin everything.

Maggie Armstrong tried to be strong after Caleb broke her heart and disappeared. Somehow, she managed to move on. She’s determined to make a new life for herself.

But then Caleb and Maggie are forced together on a summer trip. They try ignoring their passion for each other, but buried feelings resurface. Caleb must face the truth about the night of Maggie’s accident, or the secret that destroyed their relationship will forever stand between them.

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

While I think you could read this book on its own, I don’t think there’s any point in doing so without reading Leaving Paradise first. A follow-up to the open-ended drama of the excellent first book, this was a reread for me, and enough time had passed since my first time reading it that a lot of it felt brand new again.

WARNING: I am going to spoil the first book here, so if you’re interested in the series, you’d better not read the rest! Otherwise go back to my review of book one.

In the first book we see Caleb and Maggie return to school after a year away. Maggie has been in the hospital and in recovery after a serious accident where she was hit by a drunken driver. She is permanently injured by the crash. Caleb has been in prison for being that driver.

Only, it wasn’t Caleb who was driving the car – something we find out towards the end of the book. He took the blame to protect his twin sister (and Maggie’s former best friend) who was behind the wheel that night.

After being rejected by everyone, Caleb skipped town, and we pick up with him eight months later, arrested again for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In order to stay out of prison – and this time it would be full-on adult prison, not juvenile detention – the man working on his case offers him the chance to travel with a group of young people on a tour to talk to kids about the consequences of dangerous driving.

Maggie also happens to be part of this group, and this is where the real drama starts.

Some of the things that were left open-ended in book one are resolved here. The truth about Caleb finally comes out, just as it should. Maggie is NOT happy that Caleb took off on her not long after they became a couple, and it takes time for them to work through their issues.

Author Simone Elkeles knows how to write teen drama. She’s fantastic at it. As an adult reading her work it has an addictive quality, and I can only imagine how much teenaged me would have enjoyed these books.

While it is not as solid a read as book one, Return to Paradise is satisfying in a different way: we finally get justice for characters affected by things beyond their control.

Read these two as a pair.

The Week: 19th – 25th March

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Moody sky at Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra on Saturday afternoon.

First autumn leaves in Canberra.

Our crazy resident brushtail possum and her baby curled up in the tree outside my room on Tuesday afternoon.

kaetlyn-osmond Canada_s Kaetlyn Osmond. 2018 World Figure Skating Champion.

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Huge congratulations to Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, who just became the 2018 World Figure Skating Champion. I am SO disappointed this wasn’t the result at the Olympics a few weeks ago. Osmond is a complete skater, not a jumping machine with zero artistic merit.

This week the world’s last male white rhinoceros died. The species is about to become extinct. And the United States is run by a family who goes to Africa to trophy-hunt endangered animals…

One week until Easter, and March is basically over. What happened?! I am going away over the long weekend.

Coming Up for Mary Balogh

Someone to Trust (Westcott Book #5) by Mary Balogh

My review of First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet #1) by Mary Balogh

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet #1) by Mary Balogh

My review of Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

My review of Running Blind (Men of Steele #4) by Gwen Hernandez

Running Blind (Men of Steele #4) by Gwen Hernandez

Make a date with Harlequin: Prince

Harlequin Publishing Logo

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

This young adult romance involves an aspiring football player and an aspiring ballet dancer. They’re thrown together when our hero – recovering from an injury – is encouraged to take up ballet to help with his football – his flexibility in particular.

Unlike most young adult books I’ve read recently, this one was written in the third person.

I like books where the characters have particular ambitions and talents they’re working with. I didn’t have a normal childhood or adolescence, with everyone in my family involved either in the theatre or elite sport, and I’m always going to pick up a book with these themes.

It seems the author knows a thing or two about American football, but not enough about ballet to convince me. As you would expect, I know NOTHING about American football (other than that they wear scaffolding when they play!), but it seems she did a good job with that aspect of the book.

The heroine starts off highly unlikeable, blackmailing the hero into dancing with her by filming him in the ballet studio and threatening to show it at school. Nobody who does ballet would ever do anything like this. I knew guys who kept their ballet lives a secret, and not even the meanest person at the studio would have been awful enough to do what she did.

Thankfully, the nastiness is resolved fairly fast, because I wouldn’t have been able to keep reading otherwise.

Now, I’m always going to be nitpicky with the ballet, and it’s no different here. I’ll just mention three things, though:

#1 It’s a ballet barre, not a “bar”, as it is referred to a number of times. You hold it; you don’t drink at it!

#2 I was horrified by the personal “ballet” lessons the hero received. Ballet is dance, not “stretching”. The guy walked into the studio cold, and with zero warmup was stretching beyond his (very limited) capabilities. A guy who can’t bend to touch his knees has no business throwing a leg up on a barre over a metre high.

This wasn’t ballet; it was muscle-tearing!

#3 No, people don’t wear princess costumes to ballet class. This is what ballet students look like when they’re in the studio:

Kiyanochka_02 Ballet Class Ballet Students

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Entangled’s Crush line is category romance for teens, so this is a shortish read, where the action moves along at a pretty fast pace. Offsetting Penalties is a decent little read to pass an afternoon – just don’t nitpick like me!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

 

The Week: 19th – 25th February

^^^^

I have no idea why it keeps starting partway through!

Plenty of Winter Olympics-watching happened this week. The best moment was Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir winning ice dance gold.

R.I.P. to Emma Chambers

Kyiv Ukraine Euromaidan Memorials Sonya Heaney May 2016

This week marked four years since the pro-Russian snipers opened fire on the public in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. The war rages on, even though I haven’t seen it in the Australian, European, or American news for a long time.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Abramenko won the men's aerials freestyle skiing gold medal to break Belarus' dominance in the event at the Winter Olympics..

Ukraine did win a gold medal in Pyeongchang, however!

My review of Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Lisa Kleypas News

Hello Stranger (Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Out Soon

The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors #5) by Sabrina Jeffries

Reread: My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Bombing of London Library

On 23rd February 1944 The London Library came within a few feet of being totally destroyed. Bombed Second World War Two0241_-_The_Art_Room_19440238_-_

Reread: My Life Next Door

I’ve been rereading a few books over the hot summer here in Australia, including some Young Adult books – I haven’t read anything in the genre for a while, so it’s been interesting!

One of the books I’ve reread is My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, a book I reviewed in 2013. I won’t review it again, but will say it’s such a good book with great characters.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts.  All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them…until one summer evening Jase Garrett climbs her trellis and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love and stumble through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first romance, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own—even as she keeps him a secret from her disapproving mother and critical best friend. Then the unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A debut novel about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

Liza Petrov’s entire life has been about skating and winning her sport’s top prize – Olympic gold. She’s stayed sheltered inside her bubble, not daring to stray from her destined path.

Until she meets Braden Patrick.

He makes her heart flutter with possibility, and for the first time she gets a taste of a normal teenage life. She longs to have both the boy and the gold, but stepping outside her bubble comes with a price. As Liza begins to question both her future and her past, can she stay focused on the present and realize her ultimate dream?

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

This is a “young” new adult book about a Russian/American girl hoping for figure skating gold at the 2014 Olympics. By “young”, I mean it’s a sweet story (no sex, for example), and the heroine is believably sheltered because of the intense training she has been doing most of her life.

It seems this is the daughter of characters from the author’s earlier series, but that doesn’t matter – I haven’t read those other books yet, and you won’t need to either.

The best thing about Jennifer Comeaux’s writing is that she is a figure skating expert. The author knows *everything* about the sport, and it makes such a difference. I’ve read some other Winter Olympic-themed books recently, and it was great to see how much better Comeaux is at getting the sport right.

The love interest in Gold Rush is a little too perfect to be believable, and the ending is a little predictable, but this would make a great read for young adult fans who are inspired by the current Winter Games.

Must monsters always be male?

Cinderella Disney.

“No” evil women in fiction!

The Guardian recently ran what I consider to be a misguided article:

Must monsters always be male? Huge gender bias revealed in children’s books

Perhaps Donna Ferguson, the article’s author, has missed the fact the “evil stepmother” is a trope, but there’s no “evil stepfather”. Or that “evil, jealous sisters” feature in everything from ancient literature to children’s fairy tales.

How about all those young adult and new adult books where the mothers are all evil drunkards, the villains are always villainesses in the form of jealous blonde “popular girls”, and the most common heroine trope is the one who’s “not like other girls” and therefore has no female friends?

When I think of monsters, I think of Stalin and Hitler and Putin and Trump. I think of doctors who spend twenty years freely molesting hundreds of young gymnasts. I think of a man filling a hotel room with guns and mowing down a crowd in the space of minutes. Of all the gender biases in books, how can needing more female monsters possibly be the one that matters?

Adding more evil women to fiction, when what we need is to stop demonising women, is a step in the wrong – not the right – direction.

While the other points in the article – about the lack of female characters in starring roles, and the lack of female characters who speak – are important to address, I would say fiction is already misogynistic enough.