Who hasn’t wondered “If Only…?” If only I hadn’t left the house five minutes late, if only I didn’t get a flat tire, if only traffic wasn’t bad. If only I had made that flight. For Hadley, four minutes is the difference between making her overseas flight to London and missing it, consequently being stuck in the airport until the next Heathrow-bound flight leaves. But those four minutes are also the difference between her traveling on to her father’s wedding and her meeting Oliver, the British boy she meets in the airport and ends up sitting next to on the entire trans-Atlantic flight. Oliver, the boy who she opens up to about her father, his abandonment of their family and his new marriage. Oliver, the charming, teasing boy who works his way into her heart in a mere twenty-four hour period–and who she then loses sight of upon their arrival in London.
Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a quick, fairly short read that was quite enjoyable–a nice, sweet, mindless love story that despite being predictable, still managed to charm. But sometimes that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for. The plot was fairly straightforward, revolving around Hadley’s trip to London to attend her father’s wedding and the disgruntled feelings she still holds towards her father. After all, he abandoned her and her mother after a few months abroad teaching in London and falling in love with “that British woman.” These feelings in particular make Hadley quite an authentic character. Despite her mother’s forgiveness of her father and her mother’s new relationship with Harrison, a local dentist, Hadley herself can’t bring herself to forgive her dad, and the distance between them is evidenced both in the lack of contact they have now and the flashbacks back to Hadley’s youth, where the reader witnesses the strong emotional bond they used to have. The stubbornness Hadley feels toward her father firmly grounds her in her youth and makes her a realistic character.
One fault I did have with this novel was the whirlwind relationship that sprung up between Hadley and Oliver. Although this is by no means the “I see a boy across the school quad and BAM! I’m in love” scenario that haunts so many YA books nowadays, and the relationship between Hadley and Oliver does develop slowly and deliberately, through conversation, confessions, and close proximity in a shared, cramped airport row, the short period of time still made me question the closeness of their bond.
Regardless, Oliver was a charming, endearing character, particularly in the way he teased Hadley. Fans of Etienne in Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss will adore Oliver and in him find another worthy foreign literary crush. Hadley’s ultimate discovery of the reason for Oliver’s trip to London also opens up windows to different sides of both of their characters, and Smith gradually leads into this realization particularly well. Ultimately, although the character arcs often seem a tad bit rushed, the author builds these arcs well, and the relationships between Hadley and the adults in her life (her father, her mother, and her new stepmother, Charlotte) are handled particularly sensitively and realistically.
Smith’s writing is quite beautiful, and the thoughtfulness of some of her lines is striking. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a charming read and highly recommended for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Ockler.