Review of The Geography Of You And Me by Jennifer E. Smith PLUS Exclusive Info!

 Publisher: Headline
Published: 15th April 2014
Pages: 352

Blurb: 

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.

Review:

Thank you to the wonderful Frances at BookBridgr. We’ve been fan girling over this book since I started reading it. I’m part of Jennifer’s blog tour so after my review, keep scrolling for exclusive information about the inspiration behind the book…

Part One sees the meeting between Lucy and Owen, and it’s quick. In most narratives, we’d view their day and then we’d meet them. But not here. Not in Jennifer’s book. I liked how upon first glance, Lucy describes Owen as a scarecrow. It’s not a lovey-dovey message, it’s simple, straight to the point and kind of cute. That allows the readers to build up an image of Owen in their minds. And yes, for me, he was a scarecrow for a while.

Jennifer has managed to turn an elevator, or a lift as us Brits call it, into a magical place. It’s a small area which has created a lot of memories over the years for Lucy – ones with her parents, her siblings and her neighbours. And now, she’s sharing it with Owen. I honestly believed that throughout the entire narrative, Lucy and Owen would be in the lift, exchanging stories of travelling around the world. But no, it’s not like that at all.

Lucy isn’t a social butterfly. She’d rather read a book or hang out with her brothers. I didn’t see the harm in that, but at times, I wish she had a female friend to confide in about Owen. I wanted them to speculate what would happen in the future – would they end up together or would they remain as just friends? But then again, I felt as if Lucy was confiding in me, therefore, she did have a female friend. Her friends are the readers.

The spark between Lucy and Owen wasn’t upon first sight. It might be different for other readers, but I felt that in order for them to learn of their love, they had to be apart. In the blackout, Lucy shot all of Owen’s ideas down. She’s a girl with her guard up and quite frankly, I couldn’t blame her. She was protecting herself but once that guard came down, she was a joy to be around and Owen realised that as well.

The descriptions of New York and the other countries were breathtaking. I haven’t travelled to most of those places, but after reading the book, I felt as if I’d been on one big round trip of the globe. Only, Lucy and Owen were with me all the way. We learn a lot about their pasts – Owen’s is filled with loneliness and grief, whereas Lucy learnt how to deal with being alone. She found it to be a favourite time of her, rather than being around people.

Part Two sees them in completely different places with different people. But with the art of postcards, they’re drawn back to each other. I found this particular section to be heartbreaking. Would Lucy and Owen ever realise that they’re made for each other? Would they ever be in the same place and the same time again? I genuinely had no idea.

Part Three opens with broken hearts and realisations. Every inch of their thoughts are about one another and I couldn’t help but smile. FINALLY, they realised that they want to be with each other but what’ll happen next? They’re in different countries.

Part Four brought my favourite line of the book which is spoken by Owen: But at least we’re idiots together. I didn’t know whether fate would pull them back together but it is one wonderful and utterly cute book. Teenagers in love have finally been given a good name and what’s more important, is that people believe it.

What a book. By far, my favourite YA novel so far.

Inspiration Behind The Geography Of You And Me:

On the day the lights went out in New York City, I hadn’t even officially moved here yet.  I’d spent the morning looking at apartments with a friend from college, and our giddiness at the prospect of living in Manhattan had been quickly dulled by the blazing heat and endless parade of tiny, crumbling apartments we couldn’t possibly afford, even with our two measly salaries combined. When we finally found a place – a shoebox of an apartment that was still way over our budget – the broker told us we’d have to put a deposit down right away (as in, right away) if we wanted a shot at getting it.  So we hurried straight over to the bank to withdraw some cash. As my friend used the ATM, I loitered near the door, a little bit anxious about spending so much money to live in such an unremarkable apartment in a city I’d only ever visited a handful of times.  It seemed like an awfully high price of admission.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the machine and punched a few buttons, and the screen went immediately dark.  “I think it’s broken,” I said, wondering if maybe it was a sign.  But when I turned around, I saw that it wasn’t just the ATM.  It was the whole block.  Out on the street, the traffic lights had gone out, and the cars had all come to a stop with a chorus of honking horns. When we walked outside, there was an air of panic.  People were whirling around in confusion, or hurrying up and down the sidewalks to see what other stores had lost power, while on the street, the beeping only grew louder, the traffic at a complete halt.

It had not even been two years since September 11th, and the city was still a fairly jittery place, nervous and on edge.  So when something like this occurred, when all the lights in a neighborhood snapped off smack dab in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, it was impossible not to be struck with at least some amount of fear, and for a few minutes, everything felt oddly paralyzed. But then, as we watched, a man in a suit jogged out into the middle of the intersection, his hands outstretched, and started directing traffic.  After a few minutes, he loosened his tie and took off his jacket, using two fingers to whistle sharply at the cars as he shepherded them forward.

As we walked around that afternoon, we saw dozens more examples of this – construction workers, businessmen, delivery guys, even a homeless man – out there directing traffic at each intersection, helping people get where they needed to go, taking a city that was stuck and unsticking it.  It wasn’t until a little bit later, after people figured out that there was nothing to worry about – that there was nothing sinister in what was happening, only a massive power outage that had started somewhere in Canada – all the fear and tension melted into a sense of relieved and cheerful camaraderie.

As we made our way back to the apartment where we were staying with friends, there was an almost celebratory atmosphere to the neighborhood, a sense of relief so palpable it made everyone a little bit giddy.  Ice cream shops were giving away free cones before they could melt, and the bars were handing out free beers.  Restaurants were serving food by candlelight, and people were hanging out of their windows, waving at all the commuters on their long walk home through the late summer heat.

I’ve lived in New York City for nearly a decade now, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience countless memorable moments here.  Some stand out more than others (the lighting of the Christmas tree and marathon Sunday, boat rides in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and baseball games in the Bronx), but the more mundane ones are special too (the drinks in the West Village and dinners on the Lower East Side, the concerts and festivals and street fairs), if only because they took place in this particular city, where everything somehow feels a little bit heightened.

But even all these years later, the blackout still stands out most of all.

We ended up spending the night with a group of friends, drinking wine and telling jokes until the candles had all burned out.  There was no water, since we were in a high rise and the pumps didn’t work without electricity, and in the absence of any sort of fans or air conditioning, the apartment was scorching.  But none of that really mattered, because we were all together, deep in the heart of this strange, shadowy version of Manhattan. I had no idea at the start of that day how much I would come to love the city by the end of it.  When the lights finally came back the following afternoon, I returned to the bank to withdraw money for my deposit.  Only this time, I felt ready to hand it over.  It was still an utterly unremarkable apartment, but lucky for me, it was located in an astonishingly remarkable city.

Twitter: @JenESmith
Website: http://www.jenniferesmith.com/
Q&A: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/apr/16/jennifer-e-smith-interview-the-geography-of-you-and-me

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