Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Publication: March 5th 2019 by Delacorte Press
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 320 pages
Format: eARC from the publisher
Having just been dumped by his girlfriend, British-born Hugo is still determined to take his last-hurrah-before-college train trip across the United States. One snag: the companion ticket is already booked under the name of his ex, Margaret Campbell. Nontransferable, no exceptions.
Enter the new Margaret C. (Mae for short), an aspiring filmmaker with big dreams. After finding Hugo’s spare ticket offer online, she’s convinced it’s the perfect opportunity to expand her horizons.
When the two meet, the attraction is undeniable, and both find more than they bargained for. As Mae pushes Hugo to explore his dreams for his future, he’ll encourage her to channel a new, vulnerable side of her art. But when life off the train threatens the bubble they’ve created for themselves, will they manage to keep their love on track?
Huge thanks to Fay of The Bibliophile Soprano and my friends from Penguin Random House International for sending me a digital review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
I’ve been a fan of Jennifer E. Smith and her stories ever since I first read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and so when my good friend Fay offered up a chance to read her latest, Field Notes on Love, as part of a local blog tour in partnership with the lovely people from Penguin Random House International, y’all know that I practically parkoured to get myself a spot on the initiative. (Fay, I’m sorry it took me weeks to sign up! I really thought I already signed up the first time I opened your sign-up form! *laughs*) Not only am I an avid contemporary / romance reader, but I’m also a huge believer in the fact that train meet-cutes are THE BEST and it’s a romance trope that I really, really enjoy—mostly because lots of my favorite romances usually take place in or at train stations. So anyway, let me stop right here so you can go on and read my actual review.
Field Notes on Love is the story of Mae Campbell, an incoming college student and aspiring filmmaker, and Hugo Wilkinson, 1/6 of a locally famous sextuplet from the United Kingdom who dreams of travelling a small portion of the world before he goes to college. On the day before a big date-trip, Margaret Campbell (who, at the time, was Hugo’s girl friend), breaks up with Hugo, leaving him with two train tickets that’s meant to take him from New York to San Francisco. Not wanting the said tickets to go to waste, he publishes a post that’s meant to find another “Margaret Campbell” just so he can go on the trip, and that’s where Mae comes into the picture. This is a story about finding love in the unlikeliest of places, moving forward without forgetting where you came from, and the strong powers of dreaming greatly.
The first thing I want to talk about is the story’s family dynamics. Hugo, like I’ve mentioned, is 1/6 of a sextuplet, and even though that might sound exciting and/or interesting to some, this seemed like a very overwhelming thing to me. I mean, what does an only child like JM know, right? What I’m trying to point out is that if you’re a part of a huge family, it can sometimes be very easy to choose to settle and just go with the flow. It may sometimes be hard to try and voice out your opinions, especially if that hasn’t been the case for so long. It’s going to be hard to try and establish a foundation for your personal growth because—let’s face it—you’re “part of a unit” as Hugo purposefully mentioned several times in the book. Seeing how Hugo went on a journey to realize this and actually do something about it resonated with me, not because I’m part of a sextuplet, but because I know the feeling of wanting to settle. I know how hard it can sometimes be to want to wander away from what you were told (or destined) to do and so I really appreciated this aspect of the story. And seeing how welcoming and understanding his whole family was, even his brothers and sisters, warmed my heart. I loved seeing just how well-bonded they all were, and I have to say that even though I didn’t get much back story for all of them, I still found them interesting and I wouldn’t mind reading another book about a different Wilkinson sibling. I also liked the fact that even though Mae came from a small but charming family, her parents—who are both dads, by the way—were still very much present in Mae’s life and her Nana, who happens to be one of my favorite characters from the book, is precious gem and I would give up my life for her, honestly.
The whole relatability aspect of the story was also pretty spot on, and it was also one of my favorite things about this book. Hugo and Mae are both incoming college students—one being more prepared and determined than the other. Hugo, along with his five brothers and sisters, has a scholarship waiting for him as part of a publicity stunt, while Mae, albeit being a lot more excited than Hugo, got into her school of choice, just not for filmmaking. Now what I loved about these two’s contrasting situations is that it gave the story a lot more depth and it made the story very relatable, especially from Mae’s point of view. Not all students get into their dream schools to pursue their program choices. Not everybody’s that lucky—even me. I had to fight for my place in school. And so having went through this, and being able to read through Mae’s story actually made me feel seen, and somehow represented. It was like in some small way, Jennifer E. Smith wrote this story specifically for me, and that feeling means to me a lot more than I can say. And I’m pretty sure that I won’t be the only one who will feel this along the way.
As for the romance aspect, I really, really enjoyed watching Hugo and Mae’s love story slowly unfold along with all the different love stories that they discover while travelling. From the beginning, it was pretty obvious that this whole story was written with a whole lot of love, and to see that actually work it’s magic literally made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I love the undeniable chemistry between Mae and Hugo, and even though there were times that I felt like everything was too insta-lovey, I easily came to terms with it just because of how well-knit they were in the end. And the way they freely allowed themselves to feel the things they did made me want to be brave about the way I love, and I guess there’s no denying that I’m a sucker for stories like their’s. I felt for them, I rooted for them, and seeing them get the happy ending they both deserved and got made me feel extremely satisfied.
“Jennifer E. Smith’s newest is one charming novel. It features a light and fuzzy love story about two people who finds love in the unlikeliest of places, a plethora of wonderful relationship dynamics, characters who are extremely easy to love and root for, a central plot that’s interesting, and a trope that’s very well-loved by all kinds of readers. I’ve been a fan of this author for years and this book just reminds me of why I love Jennifer E. Smith. The way she breathes life (and love) into the stories of her characters is impeccable and I look forward to seeing just how well-received Mae and Hugo’s story will be.”
Have YOU read any of Jennifer E. Smith’s books yet? What’s your favorite? And if you haven’t had it on your radar yet, then be sure to check out FIELD NOTES ON LOVE!
And before you go, be sure to check out the other tour posts produced specifically to promote Field Notes on Love:
JENNIFER E. SMITH is the author of eight books for young adults, including Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She currently lives in New York City.
Until the next one!