Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
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. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that 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 in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.
I was excited about this book from the moment I heard about it, yet it still took me a week to pick it up after it’s release. Pity, considering that one week was much longer than the 24 hours it took me to devour this book; which, if I had my way, I would have finished in one sitting. In the end, the timing the book took to read from start to finish was appropriate, as the story itself also takes place in 24 hours.
I have to say: If you have even a millimeter of a romantic bone in your body, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is one MUST-READ story.
You have more than just a “girl meets boy meets girl > fall in love > the end” story within these pages. The book starts out with the main character, Hadley, leaving for a trip to London to see her father get married to someone who is not her mother. Most teenage children (or even adults) with divorced parents can understand the emotions one experiences in such an event. Things get even more interesting, though, after Hadley misses her flight thanks to reaching the gate 4 minutes too late after a series of (un)fortunate events. As a result, Hadley meets a boy named Oliver and her whole outlook on life changes. Seriously. Many people would read this synopsis and think: “Romantic chick fluff. Goodbye…” And to that I would say: “Now wait just one minute! There’s more to this story than that!” Think of it as the fastest coming of age story you will ever read. The growing up that seventeen year old Hadley undergoes in just 24 hours is as palpable as it can get in under 250 pages (or 24 hours, for that matter). The perspectives she has to change (about her family, romance and marriage, and about herself) are numerous and you really do feel her growth as you read. Trust me on that one. Two points off, though, for the book being so darn short compared to what I’m used to reading, and then ending when all I want is MORE Oliver! (I kid. No wait. No, I don’t. I really do love him that much.)
I have already described the growth that Hadley undergoes within the 24 hours you read about in this book, but in addition there are a number of other characters you also learn about. Nearly everyone undergoes some sort of growth or a revelation of sorts in the story, but most endearing of all are the outcomes for Hadley, Oliver and (oddly enough) Hadley’s mother. We really only learn about Hadley’s mother within flashbacks, in addition to a most ridiculous game of phone tag across the ocean, but she is almost as endearing to me as a character as Hadley is. As for Oliver (the “main man” of interest, or the “other half of the statistic”), I instantly fell in love with him the moment his hands fell upon a particular piece of luggage. I KNEW I was going to love every word that comes out of his mouth, or any of Hadley’s continuous inner dialogues that refer to him. He is a very nicely developed “love interest”, with a personality and side story of his own. Oddly enough, the plane trip that Hadley and Oliver experience together only last a dozen or more pages in “real time”. Those hours are mentioned more in flashback as the story progresses, rather than in real time. And for good reason! It really helped Oliver develop as a character with it being told this way. It is an example of creative (and smart) story telling to keep him in the picture throughout the telling of the story.
I love stories that take you from one location to another far-off place. (Yay! A road -er- plane trip!) The main character is taken from a place of familiarity (her home), to a place of “in-between” (the airport and the plane), to a place that puts her completely out of her element (in London, among strangers). This helps to set up the mood for the book, and oddly enough the various settings even help with regard to the overall character growth (i.e. how they end up depends a lot on where they end up).
The pacing is really what I loved the most. The book, already short at under 250 pages, seems to be an even quicker read thanks to the manner of its telling. It’s not long into the book before Hadley is on the plane, on her way to her destination. Considering how long the ride is in “real-time”, it is told within very few pages. Yet, we go back to the plane ride periodically throughout the story as Hadley has her London “adventure”, thus creating the sensation of never truly leaving the plane, if that makes much sense. It’s an odd sensation, being taken to that place of the “in-between” right in the middle of the story, but, as I said above, it works! And wow. I almost had to slow myself down while reading, simply because it was all going by so fast and I never wanted it to end!
The same can be said about Jennifer’s writing style as I said about her pacing above. The only thing I’ll add is that the author has a way of getting into her characters heads in order to make you really “feel” what each character is thinking – even if the story isn’t being told from their point of view. I love how she manages to make the people, the places and their experiences all feel so “real”. In addition, I love how her manner of combining the present time with the flashbacks (of the far past as well as the more recent plane ride “past”) in order to unravel new revelations/outlooks, and build up to the big twist in the end. Honestly, I didn’t see that one coming. (Call me naive.)
Based on her previous entries to the world of YA fiction, Jennifer E. Smith appears to be the queen of the road trip/coming of age novel, so for fans of those genres this is a MUST READ. In addition, I would recommend this book men and women of all ages who enjoy contemporary British-style lit, romantic stories or any type of “feel good” book.
It may be early in the year, but I already see The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight on my list of favorite books in 2012.
Posted on January 19, 2012, in Book Review, Five Star and tagged Awesome, Book Review, Bridesmaid, Charles Dickens, Contemporary, Destiny, Divorce, Fate, Five Stars, Hadley, Jennifer E Smith, London, Love, Oliver, Oliver Twist, Romance, Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Statistics, Weddings. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.