13 March 2012

76% Chance of Likeability

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Site by Jennifer E. Smith (Poppy, 1/2/2012)
Review by Kelly Lucas

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.*

It’s 6:56 Eastern Standard Time (11:56 Greenwich Mean Time) and Hadley is running late. As you open the first pages of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer Smith drops you in middle of JFK and at the beginning of Hadley’s adventure to London. Then she misses her flight to London for her father’s second marriage - by four minutes.

These four little minutes [as our handy synopsis tells us] change the path Hadley thought she should be on. Hadley now gets to meet Oliver, who is British and on his way to London as well. In an act of British kindness, Oliver helps Hadley with her bag and the two start to get to know each other in JFK. Over the course of their seven-hour flight, they begin to learn about each other, their lives and the conflicts concerning their trips.

Obviously, the two start to fall for each other. The title kind of gives it away. I was pleasantly surprised at how witty Hadley and Oliver are. From their first conversation all the way to their last, the two banter like they’ve known each other for years. Oliver’s humor specifically hooked me into this story. He’s charming (and British) and funny (and British) and so kind (and British). Smith captures his voice so well. She uses the slang that an 18-year-old British boy would use. I loved that. Without even checking, I know Smith has either spent a lot of time with British people or done her homework very well.

Hadley’s adventure takes place over a 24-hour period - from JFK to the end of her father’s wedding. Fortunately for us, we get to see a lot of Hadley and Oliver learning about each other. It’s the first flirtations of a relationship that always make me smile and Smith has written it well. Unfortunately, detailing this 24-hour time period became a little boring towards the end. Once Hadley and Oliver went their separate ways, Hadley became a whiny 17-year-old. I was aching for more Oliver, and more Oliver/Hadley banter.

Hadley on her own is not that appealing. While I understand she is trying to survive a very difficult situation, I would have thought she’d be more mature about the situation. After her parents divorce, she helped carry her mother through the ordeal. Maybe it’s because I never had to deal with divorce or re-marriage, but I couldn’t relate to her. All Hadley talked about and flashed back to was the divorce, how angry she was at her father for leaving, and the re-marriage. I hate calling characters flat, but she is. Hadley often recalls the moments that lead to her flying to her father’s second wedding, but we really don’t get to learn too much about Hadley. The only way I can describe her is an angry teenage girl. She hasn’t even been overly heartbroken to need Oliver to sweep her off her feet. Smith does a lot of telling, and not too much showing.

By the time I realized this, I was 170 pages into the book. Smith hooks you in early and only briefly unhooks you. I did not find this to be the case with Oliver. He, just like Hadley, is going through a difficult situation. Unlike Hadley, he chooses to focus on her and not on himself. As the 24 hours progress, Hadley [and I] uncover Oliver. His flaws only make him real, instead of an idealised kind British boy you happen to sit next to on a very long flight.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Site is sweet, charming, and a quick read. But I loved the idea of the story more than I actually loved the story itself. I don’t know if it’s worth the $18 a bookstore will charge you, but if you happen to miss a flight by four minutes and are stuck in an airport, you might as well pick it up and enjoy the ride.

*Plot synopsis taken from Amazon.com

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