How Very 1% of You

The Geography of You and Me - Jennifer E. Smith


The point wasn’t the distance. It was the homecoming.

God, I just love that sentiment.

And I truly felt that this had a lot of beautiful moments and heartfelt intentions that just got lost in that thick bog of mediocrity with a droning narrative, a climax-less plot, a pair of charmless protagonists and the non-existent chemistry between them. In yet another exercise in frustration, this wasn’t offensively bad, but the stilted potential just shoves the disappointment obnoxiously THERE. Front and center. In. Your. Face.

Lucy (a favourite heroine name, by the way) is a loner whose globe-trotting parents keeps on leaving her in their New York apartment. Which is okay with her some days, but some days she really just wants to actually go to Paris and not just receive another postcard from them. But then again, she doesn’t really want to impose on her moneyed parents or cramp their style. I don’t understand the rhyme and reason behind this way of thinking, because her parents seem like a fairly reasonable pair, but it kinda made Lucy easy to hate. 

Especially when placed alongside Owen, the son of the new super in their posh apartment. Owen and his father recently moved from Philly, running from the memory of his mother’s tragic death. So you’ve got this restless, privileged girl and a heartbroken, blue-collar boy get trapped in an elevator on a citywide power outage.

In the span of a few hours, they forge a friendship out of their shared loneliness, only to be separated by their paternally-driven, employment-related circumstances: hers, whisking her away to London and eventually Edinburgh; his, on a cross-country road trip. They live their lives, meet other people and mark pit-stops in their travels with postcards as they try to carve out a home in their small corners of the world. All the while keeping an unnameable relationship founded on an ephemeral glitch in time and space.

How long could a single night really be expected to last? How far could you stretch such a small collection of minutes? He was just a boy on the roof. She was just a girl in an elevator.

This was told in alternating, third person POVs which I usually don’t appreciate because it often just becomes one scene from two perspectives. In this case, seeing as Owen and Lucy spent the majority of the book apart, it actually worked. It was one of the few things I actually liked about this story, the other being Owen and his father’s relationship. It took a bit of getting used to reading his dad being called “Dad” by the third person narrator (is this being told from an unseen brother’s POV?) but I liked seeing that dynamic between two men trying to hold together what’s left of their family. The quiet portrayal of parental dignity and male pride in Owen’s father was quite heart-wrenching. This was the one aspect in the story where Smith’s subtle hand worked really really well.

Outside of that, this was just a little too monotonous for my tastes.

For me, my problem lay in the groundwork of Owen and Lucy’s relationship. The moments between the elevator and the stargazing in the roof felt crucial to how well this story would hold. Being the point where both these characters would constantly draw memories from once they get separated, I thought it demanded something, some magic and fantasy. But this just refused to stretch beyond the limits of realistic fiction and ended up this side of dull and bland. That brief stretch in the beginning failed to capture my interest for the well-being of either characters. Their chemistry so obscenely non-existent that you just can’t wish for them to find their way back together. Instead I ended up wanting them to remain as distant pen-pals meant to be plot devices to unveil a more interesting progression for either of them.

There was a severe discrepancy between Lucy and Owen’s personal conflicts in that Owen had all the heft and emotional upheaval for two Lifetime Movies while Lucy had none. Seriously, her life is one first world problem after another.

Mom and Dad won’t take me to their trips in Paris and instead leaves me in our New York apartment. 

I’m dating a hot, chiseled rugby player with a lovely Scottish accent… but I don’t understand rugby. 

This heartache would’ve been solved by a single email to Owen… but postcards are just so much more romantic. 

Maybe I missed the point to it all but alternating her chapters walking through the streets of Paris and Rome with her parents, while Owen’s dishwashing in a Mexican restaurant as his dad gets repeatedly rejected for jobs… Is this book even trying to make me LIKE the girl? I had to pause and try to remember anything else about Lucy apart from her non-problems because these were all there was to her character.

For a while I liked how this was quite faithful in the depiction of the struggles in a long distance relationship (a friendship by technicality, rather). But the way the story progressed and even ended, felt a little empty. I like ambiguous endings, those that make you think and fashion your own conclusion but this one felt rather counterproductive. Like jumping from the pan and into the fire where they cease their long distance friendship and start an ACTUAL long distance relationship and anyone who has ever suffered through one of those would tell you just what a horrid idea that is. 

And maybe what they’ve gone through should inspire some optimism somewhere, some rose-colored hope from the cynical reader,. But from the perspective of someone who has lived that nightmare, the prospect of college, distance and hormones is just a New Adult trilogy cliche waiting to happen.

And hey, Owen already owns a turtle named Bartleby… all we need is a gay best friend for Lucy and we’re already halfway there.

Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.