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Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown. 2012.
The Plot: Hadley is four minutes late for her plane, the plane to London to take her to her father’s wedding. Now she has to wait for the next one, and if she is lucky, she may be able to get to the church on time. Yes, Hadley should have given herself more time, more time to get to the plane, more time before the ceremony, more time — but. Well. It is her father’s second wedding: the wedding that is happening because when he moved to England for a semester as a visiting professor, he never came back.
No, really. Instead of coming home after one semester, he divorced Hadley’s mother, stayed in England and now is marrying Charlotte. Hadley has never met Charlotte and doesn’t want to go to the wedding. Which may explain why she planned on flying out at the last possible moment . . . and now that has changed into the last-last possible moment.
While waiting for the next plane to London, Hadley meets Oliver. He’s handsome and funny and it turns out he is in the seat next to her. The missed flight may just be the best thing to happen to Hadley.
The Good: It was post-Hurricane Sandy, four days without power. I had just finished up reading the National Book Award finalists. I looked over the piles of books and saw a sea of dystopia and survival and loss and just couldn’t.
The I saw The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. A romance? Yes, please! Just what the bibliotherapist ordered. Did it deliver exactly what I needed? Yes, and then some! There is so much to love about Hadley, Oliver, and Hadley-and-Oliver, including that they are two smart, funny, bright teens. I love how the two of them were thrown together but it wasn’t sparks from the beginning. Considering half the book is “waiting in an airport” then “sitting in a plane”, a lot depended on the conversation between the two of them, and wow, it worked. And then when the plane landed, and Hadley had to go off to her father’s wedding while Oliver had his own business in London, then what?
Hadley has to go to her father’s wedding; the wedding (and meeting his fiance) that she dreads. Hadley’s anger at her father is even better than deeply felt and wonderfully conveyed. It is entirely justified and pure in its self righteousness. Hadley and her parents were a close family unit before her father left for England; her mother’s own career kept her and Hadley from joining him. He met Charlotte, divorced his wife, stayed in England. Who is in the right here? Who is in the wrong? Simple, right?
No. And yes . . . Meeting Oliver helps Hadley to come to terms with her family history. He doesn’t help her, he’s not some wise-speaking guru, he’s just a guy who completed his freshman year at an American college, an ocean away from his British family. It’s meeting him, flirting and laughing and talking and listening, and realizing what is important to her, that helps Hadley. OK, this may be a bit spoilerish, but c’mon, you know that a happy ending in all things is guaranteed in this book, right? I won’t explain the specifics; I will say that Hadley learns that sometimes you forgive a past hurt because, well, holding onto a grudge is painful and damaging. I loved that I believed Hadley working out things with her father: it was not simplistic, and it did not ignore or excuse what he had done.
What exactly did her father do? This is where I can’t help my bias as an adult reader who is closer to the ages of the parents than the teen. Statistical Probability gives a nuanced look at what happened with Hadley’s parents while never telling too much, because, frankly, most teen readers wouldn’t care. (That I want the adult book about Hadley’s father is just my own curiosity.) Smith smartly sets this book at over a year since the father left; so while Hadley remembers her heartbroken mother crying, her mother as she is today is a woman with a boyfriend who is supportive of Hadley having a healthy relationship with her father and his new bride. This allows Hadley to work through her own emotions, and what she wants her relationship with her father to be, without having to worry about hurting her mother.
Because this combined a romance with a realistic and beautiful look at family dynamics, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2012.
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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