Review: You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith
Warnings: Some mature themes
Summary: Emma and her neighbor Peter are both lonely in a way that only bothers them on occasion. They both come from families they don’t quite understand. They both feel like something big is missing from their lives—and they’re both about to search for answers. When Emma makes a discovery that shakes the foundations of her identity, she convinces Peter to join her for a road trip. Each of them has something to find: For Emma, it is a grave—a grave that may be her only connection to her family. Peter is seeking something harder to define, but perhaps easier to navigate—a freedom, a sense of something more than what he has. Together, they take to the open road, engaging in a universal quest to make sense of who they are and where they come from…and learning a thing or two about love along the way.
I’d previously really enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith’s other novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and I figured that I might give one of her earlier novels a try. In contrast with Statistical Probability, which I deeply enjoyed, I found that I was let down by her previous work. The story follows the dual point of view of Emma and Peter, two neighbors turned friends that embark on a road trip that makes them reevaluate their relationship and their relationships with others. Emma is the youngest daughter in a family of brainiacs, and she feels like she doesn’t fit in. Peter, on the other hand, is the only son of a single-dad-sheriff who’s kind of aloof most of the time. Peter’s obsessed with maps and history and he gets on famously with Emma’s parents who are professors at their local university. Their stories intertwine by a twist of fate that leaves them questioning whether they really knew each other all along.
Though the plot was interesting enough, I found the characters’ narratives to be a bit on the redundant side and something short of victim-complex-esque vibe from both. For one, Peter would rarely shut up about maps to talk about something else, which could be his misery or his dad’s failure to understand him. Emma, however, could also rarely stop talking about how smart her family was and how much of a disappointment she was to the point that it was annoying. Towards the middle of the book this whining and self-pity thinned out quite a bit, but that’s only because it took the entire first half of the book to get to the actual road trip. Yes, the entire first half was basically a huge background information dump that quite frankly dragged on and tempted me to put the book down several times. However, once the road trip picked up, it turned into a nice little story and the characters really canceled each other’s whininiess out, which made the rest of the novel tolerable and even slightly endearing. Overall, It was a bit tiresome to read, and I would’ve liked it better if Ms. Smith had cut a few thousand words on background.
I gave this book a 3/5 stars on goodreads.