Recently Literally, Darling became partners with The Novl and Little Brown Books and received some ARCs to read and review. Since this week is #IReadYA week, a celebration of young adult fiction and the people who love it, brought to you by This is Teen, the young adult division of Scholastic, we reviewed “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between” by Jennifer E. Smith, the author of “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight,” “This is What Happy Looks Like,” and “The Geography of You and Me.” Her books are full of the things we’ve come to love and expect from some of the best YA.
What Smith does best is a kind of romance. It’s not your typical romance involving a meet-cute, lots of lying, and then lusting after the other person. She often tells the story of characters making the decision to be in love. She discusses both how you make that decision and what it looks like. In her latest book, “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between,” it’s also a decision on whether to stay or leave love behind.
In “Hello,” we follow Clare and Aidan as they spend their last night before leaving for college together. They have one last decision to make before Aidan leaves for the West Coast and Clare leaves for New England: whether to break up. All in all, that was probably the least interesting part of the story. On their last night they hit the highlights (and lowlights) of their relationship, and we got to follow. We saw their first meeting, first fight, first kiss, and a couple firsts that happened on their last night, and in the end whether or not they stay together wasn’t the story; it was that they had a story.
Smith usually tells her stories from both sides. This isn’t a one-sided romantic comedy where the female protagonist and the audience are reading into whether the male protagonist likes her. I find this refreshing. When reading about high school loves, I often think back to the endless amount of crushes I accumulated, and it’s nice to remind myself that guys have a story, too. They have a unique perspective, and Smith does not silence them like many authors do. In Smith’s stories, the romance is usually requited, sometimes secret, and almost always contains distance—both physical and emotional.
The first book I read by Smith was “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight,” which will soon be made into a movie with Hailee Steinfeld and Robert Sheehan. I don’t remember how I found it or why I picked it, but I do remember how utterly unable I was to remember the name. Every time someone asked me what I was reading my answer was “The Statistical Improbability of Love,” and while that’s not completely different, it kind of goes against the whole theme. When I loaned it to a friend I told her that it was a sweet story. The kind of story about a high schooler in which you both want to be and would hate to be the main character.
I’m almost 25, but I remember the uncertainty following my impending trip to college. Wondering whether I had picked the right college, the right major, that my high school friendships would last, and whether I’d actually be able to make any new friends. This is what the best kind of YA does. It reminds you how it felt. Sure, YA often takes you to magical lands with dragons or dystopian governments, but sometimes good YA is quiet and reminds you of your best (or worst) moments.
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