Thursday 10 April 2014


Book review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

My edition: ebook, published on 10 April 2014 by Headline.

Description: Owen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking...

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can't shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can't, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy - and pain - of first love.

And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.


I don't read many contemporary young adult novels nowadays, but I will always make an exception when a new Jennifer E. Smith is published. The pages of her work are filled with heartbreakingly beautiful teenage romances that embrace such a realism that I have to remind myself that I do not in actual fact know these people she so vividly describes. They're merely characters in a fictional world, a lovely one at that though.

Lucy and Owen live in the same apartment building in New York City; Lucy, or her parents to be exact, are long-term residents whereas Owen shares a small basement flat with his father who has recently been hired to manage the building. The two teenagers have passed each on numerous occasions in the hallways, but each lost in their own little world they haven't exchanged a word until they get stuck together in an elevator during a power-cut on a blistering hot day in the city. Tentatively they open up to each other and what starts off as a way to pass time until they're released from their temporary sanctuary, they soon find themselves clinging to this brief perfect moment they shared together.

The power cut could've been the start of an epic apocalyptic tale filled with people wandering the streets in confusion, rioting and looting, and the start of a new order in society, but this isn't that kind of novel. Nonetheless the charge of opportunity and the unexpected thrill of freedom, created the perfect atmosphere for Lucy and Owen to form this incredible quick and intense bond; like conspirators they now share a secret comprised of stolen moments in the elevator and on the roof top, watching the glittering of thousands of stars dotted all across the sky, a stunning display which is normally hidden behind the curtain of artificial light that consistently embraces the city.

The time Lucy and Owen spend together is only brief as both their parents yet off elsewhere and they're obliged to follow, but their incredible connection lasts. Through infrequent postcards with brief messages (Owen) and emails talking about everything that's happening (Lucy) from across the USA and even Europe the two young protagonists remind each other and themselves of those special moments during the power cut and cherish the memories.

As they travel from one place to the next, meeting new people along the way who make them temporarily happy but never truly give them what they've left behind, the reader witnesses their beautiful and hopeful journey, but one which has a bittersweet ending. It didn't finish with the happily ever after I was hoping for, though in a way it adds to the incredible sense of realism Smith douses her work in and perhaps it is also what makes their story even more special. Their love may not last lifetimes (or maybe it will, who knows?), but the brief moments of intense happiness they have shared together are worth more than spending an entire life stuck in the not entirely unhappy but still incredibly mundane.

As with Smith's previous novels my one gripe with The Geography of You and Me is that it is far too short. Just when I got myself fully immersed in the world of Owen and Lucy the story had already concluded, which was such a shame as I didn't want to let go. Not yet. Nonetheless, the time I did spent with the two of them was beautiful. This is an incredibly sweet yet honest coming-of-age novel, which doesn't romanticise the characters or their ever-changing relationship (there's plenty of awkwardness and insecurities and perhaps not quite fitting together after all) as they grow and come closer to themselves, creating a pure and heartfelt story.

You can purchase a copy of the novel from Waterstones,, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:



Twitter: @JenESmith

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy of the novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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