First off, I feel like I should give fair warning: I did not enjoy this book. I snatched SPLFS from the library believing I would and yet I didn’t. For this reason, I feel sad to post another dissatisfied review. Am I overly critical lately? I certainly feel like it, and it makes me look grouchy. (However, I am happy to report that my new current read is a pleasant one thus far! Now moving on…)
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: ★
Oh, I don’t know… 1.5 stars? I felt a mix of boredom and frustration during the entire read. The only interest that kept me reading was the interest to avoid my research paper. What I had hoped for was a book with a more realistic ‘love’ story involving characters who have real problems. You know, the kind of problems that don’t involve, “Ohmygod, why do my parents insist on torturing my seventeen-year old self by badgering my twenty-two year old guitarist boyfriend, who is a giant rude jerk in the first place?!” and “Ohmygod, my Marie Antoinette look is a disaster, so now I need to break down and sob!” (Okay, I digress. I am still feeling bitter over my Lola and the Boy Next Door experience.)
After hearing praise for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I did set up an expectation. I believed this would be my first YA ‘chick-lit’ novel of the new year to break the “This boy is the focal point of my universe and tears will be spilled!” cycle — a cycle in which all the plot issues stem. SPLFS — thankfully — does not fall into a chick-lit category that holds child-like simplicity in context, yet events are completely blown up into these melodramatic ruckuses. Not horrendously, anyway. While an attraction between Hadley and Oliver becomes evident during their first encounter, SPLFS puts its limelight on the relationship between Hadley and her father.
It is not very spoiler-ish if I say that Hadley’s headed toward her dad’s wedding when she misses her first flight at JFK. Hadley has good reason for wishing not to attend the wedding and for bearing resentful anger: her dad took a job offer in London and never came back, having met a new woman who struck his fancy more than the woman he’d married. This seems like a fairly common, relatable problem. In my grade school days, if your parents weren’t together, they were divorced because the husband found another woman more interesting. Whether it happens when you’re a child, teen, or an adult, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil and hurt feelings to sort through.
Though Hadley spent months afterward buildig a wall between her and her father, her father put an ocean between them. My father lives two towns away but has an entire life that doesn’t involve me. We’ve anchored two different lives in two separate places. Surely, then, if your parent lives on a different continent than you, this will likely have a huge impact whether or not you’re willing to forgive what happened. But does this matter? No. Because Hadley’s dad fell in love, and because Hadley sees her parents are happy. That is great news except for the part about emotions not being so straightforward and clear. This felt like such an easy resolve for a circumstance bound to carry strong emotions and conflicts, but that’s not the half of it.
It’s amazes me how a story 236 pages with reasonable font size can drag out to feel incredibly tedious. SPLFS moves in chunks, in clusters, and they are all filled with dry, uninteresting text. To continue reading felt like running in water against a current. I wanted to move forward with the book, but there are far too many lackluster passages I trudged through.
I partially blame the narrative perspective and largely for the lack of intimacy with the character. It’s written in the third-person limited POV. Even though I find it bothersome that I wasn’t allowed to invade Oliver’s mind (third-person omniscient would have been more befitting), the extent to which we’re allowed into Haydley’s thoughts also felt shallow and, well, dull!
This is very disappointing, because all I have to do is point toward Kate Chopin‘s The Story of an Hour or J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series to show that third-person limited can work given the right balance between talent and know-how. Chopin was a phenomenal writer, and so it is quite unfair of me to make such a comparison. I’m not saying Smith is not talented or capable of writing this narrative perspective well, but SPLFS suffers because she didn’t pull it off here.
And can I pick at the title? Just for a second? The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. This could be titled “The Statistical Probability of Looking like a Decent Bridesmaid within Twenty Minutes” for all I care, because the title misleads. I prefer titles that more closely relate to the book’s plot. The title led me to think this was a love story, but I see no love-at-first-sight — only an obvious boy/girl attraction sprung from one happenstance meeting. Attraction, or a spontaneous connection — as shown in the three brief Hadley/Oliver meet-ups — is not love, and the statistical probability of it has nothing to do with overcoming daddy issues.