Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.
Hadley Sullivan is en route to her father’s second wedding, celebrating his marriage to Charlotte, a woman Hadley’s never met before. The wedding is the last place Hadley wants to be and, almost as if the world understands this, she arrives to the airport just three minutes late, causing her to miss her flight. While she waits for the next plane to arrive, she meets Oliver, a British Yale student coincidentally occupying seat 18C, a mere seat over from Hadley’s 18A. Oliver is the perfect distraction — from the impending wedding and Hadley’s claustrophobia. He’s funny, charming, and sweet…and Hadley’s pretty sure she senses a romantic connection. But when their plane lands in London, Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other before she has a chance to say goodbye. All throughout the ceremony, Hadley can’t stop thinking about him. Then a shocking revelation forces her to actively seek him out, despite the limited information she has to go on.
With such an amazing synopsis, I thought I would instantly fall in love with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. And I probably would have if the synopsis was accurate. Or rather, if it weren’t quite so misleading. This book isn’t about Hadley and Oliver’s relationship and it isn’t about the idea of love at first sight. It is about Hadley’s broken relationship with her father. It exams divorce, infidelity, and parent-child relationships. These are all interesting issues and Jennifer Smith does a fantastic and thorough job exploring them, but going into the book, I wasn’t prepared for such heavy issues. As such, I was left feeling disappointed and a little morose. Even the ending wasn’t enough to cheer me up, especially since Smith does such a good job of portraying the effects of a broken marriage on an entire family that anyone who has experienced divorce in any capacity will be unhappily reminded of their own experiences.
Hadley Sullivan isn’t the most intriguing protagonist, but she’s likable and relatable. She reacts to her parents’ divorce as many teenagers do, but she’s a little ahead of the curve in that she blames her dad rather than his new fiance, which impressed me. Hadley is most interesting when she’s talking to Oliver, as he brings her out of her sullenness. Oliver, by comparison, is lively, witty, fun, and a little mysterious. He’s a huge part of the reason I even finished this book. I actually found his story far more intriguing than Hadley’s and wished we could have learned a lot more about him. Sadly, he only appears for what feels like a brief part of the book.
My main problem with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is that it provides a lot of back-story. The entire middle consists of tons of flashbacks, all the way to when Hadley was young and happy, up until the divorce. When not flashing back, we get to witness Hadley’s dad’s wedding, which — in my opinion — is a pretty dull affair. Charlotte is too perfect and all the conflict is resolved rather easily. Though Hadley grows as a person and character throughout the book, the growth (and her eventual forgiveness) seems kind of sudden and unwarranted.
I liked The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but I didn’t love it. I think if I reread it knowing what it’s really about, I might like it better. Every scene involving Oliver was enjoyable and Hadley’s relationship with her dad is interesting enough. I’d just like to warn other readers that this is not the romantic, heart-pounding love-story it proclaims itself to be.
Publication Date : January 2012
Rating [rating: 3.5]
Teaser Quote: “‘Well,’ says the boy, propping his elbows on the table, ‘claustrophobia is nothing compared to mayo-phobia, and look how well you’re conquering that.’ He nods at the plastic knife in her hand, which is caked with mayonnaise and bread crumbs.“