‘No matter how strong her feelings for him, she refuses to rush the words. They’re too significant, too definite, too lasting. When she finally says them, she wants it to be to the first, last, and only person. She wants it to count.’
Aidan and Clare have been together for two years, but with both of them departing for colleges on different sides of the country in the morning – him off to UCLA, her off to Dartmouth – they spend their last day together trying to work out what to do about their relationship. Clare is adamant that they should break up, because she doesn’t want them to stay together and despise each other. Aidan is certain that they should stay together, because he loves Clare and he’s certain that they’ll be able to make it work – his parents were childhood sweethearts, after all. However, Clare’s parents used to be married to other people before they found each other, and she doesn’t want to risk missing out on meeting her ‘one’ if Aidan just isn’t it.
Clare designs a list of places that they need to visit before they make a decision: a ‘greatest hits’ of their relationship, touring them from the place they met to the place that they had their first kiss. Clare puts all of her energy into convincing Aidan she’s making the right choice for both of them, but when she starts to doubt herself will she be too late?
The first (and only other) Jennifer E. Smith book I’ve read was ‘The Geography of You and Me’, which I absolutely adored. I’d been expecting so much from this novel, because the concept was adorable – a mini road trip based on their relationship? Cute! – but unfortunately this one just didn’t end up appealing to me that strongly.
I think the problem might be the time scale. While it’s a brilliant idea, it makes it extremely difficult to care about their relationship: the flashbacks come quite regularly, but they aren’t that detailed or lengthy, so it felt as though there were references to the things that they’d been through together, but there wasn’t any solid evidence that made me believe they were a good couple or made me want them to work out.
I liked their best friends, Scotty and Stella, much more than I liked Aidan and Clare. Clare was self-obsessed, while Aidan was a bit of a meathead – they just didn’t seem to get any deeper than that. On the other hand, Scotty failed to get into any of the universities he applied to, so his struggle with being left behind while his friends all learnt to cope with leaving was a cruel irony. Similarly, Stella tried to put up a front and be the uncaring tough girl, but she seemed to take it harder than anyone – made even tougher when you find out that her and Scotty have been secretly dating for two months.
Talking of Scotty and Stella: I thought Clare’s automatic assertion that they should stay together was very irritating. They’ve been dating privately for a matter of weeks, while Clare and Aidan have been dating for two years, and she doesn’t think they’re worth the effort of a long distance relationship. Bit hypocritical…
I don’t really have many complaints about this book, other than the boring characters and the utterly predictable conclusion – it was just overwhelmingly average. I’ve read a lot of contemporaries this year so far, and while it’s not the worst it’s certainly not the best. A bit of a non-entity, sadly.