Book Review: The Geography of You and Me
L Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father. Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.
ashley | With the city of Toronto in a constant state of humidity and heat (when I read this), my biggest fear is being stuck in the small, cramped space of an elevator with no circulating air and no escape. That’s exactly how Jennifer E. Smith’s The Geography of You and Me starts, with Lucy and Owen stuck in a small, cramped elevator between the 10th and 11th floors of their building. In complete darkness. My anxiety is already rising.
Cramming two teens in a stalled elevator in the dark sets the scene for some intimate and candid conversation. This is the perfect canvas for the witty back and forth banter that I love (the most recent example I can remember is like in The Fault In Our Stars). But it’s a slow and steady climb to the quirky wittiness I was hoping for. I can’t find the right words to describe it, but that’s kind of exactly the problem, it’s almost like this banter isn’t using the right words either. Or something is missing. They talked, but it didn’t feel like the kind of conversation that would fuse this life-defining bond, as we’re lead to believe happens. It didn’t feel as charming or clever as it should have been to create that instant connection between two otherwise strangers.
After one night together, Lucy and Owen are torn apart, each moving away from the other, which sets the scene for communication through postcards and email and letters, but that hardly happens either. Owen can’t be bothered to keep in touch with anyone – his old friends, the new friends he meets during his travels, the girl he is supposedly so infatuated with. He makes it seem like the world is against him for the distance between everyone and the past is the past, meant to be left behind, but in this day and age, there is no excuse for not making contact, it’s his own fault that they drift apart and meet other people and lose touch. Then they’re reunited and it’s really awkward (because they haven’t talked in months and didn’t have that strong of a connection to begin with) and they drive each other apart again.
Ugh. I apologize, but this review is more of a rant than anything else. Maybe it’s just my post-teen years of wisdom and experience talking here, but this book just drove me crazy. I think what Smith is going for is a way to show the beauty about how people can grow apart and then grow back together if there is a solid connection to begin with, but I just didn’t believe that connection actually existed between Owen and Lucy after one night. They were infatuated with each other but nothing really delved past that romantic surface. Their actions while apart and the awkwardness when they were back together just didn’t do much to convince me otherwise.
I did like the descriptions of the different cities and places Owen and Lucy ended up throughout the book. The road trips and the idea of sending postcards from each place was a nice touch. I also thought Smith did a great job describing NYC in the midst of a blackout. That was all well executed; I just wish the rest of it felt the same. Maybe I just don’t remember what it’s like to be a teen anymore and how complicated and scary the opposite sex can be, but they spend far too much time avoiding each other which made me question the kind of connection the book kept telling me that they have.
They both are so determined to escape their past that they end up living too in the present to make that connection with each other believable. Whoever is there in front of them at that exact moment has their attention but anyone else is out of sight out of mind until their situation changes again. When they are together, it is all they want, but when they are apart they think about the other, sure, but never enough to keep in touch? I don’t buy it, if your connection is that strong you would put in that effort.
I wanted to like this book, I thought it was a really cute concept and would make for a light, happy read, but Lucy and Owen just annoyed me. I feel like their ties to each other were too forced and not realistic and that everything lacked chemistry, it was kind of disappointing. By the end of the book, I had far too many frustrations to even care whether or not they ended up together.