This is meant as a more in depth view at the book than my original review, for those who have already read it themselves. If you haven’t, you might want to check out my original review instead to avoid possible spoilers!
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was definitely one of my favourite reads of 2012. On the surface it is an adorable love story, but dig a little deeper and you can find family drama that is genuine and emotional. It was all of these elements that made me eager to reread it, and reading it for the second time allowed me a chance to think about what really made me love it.
There are a few key elements to this story that made it work really, really well.
Hadley’s dad left her and her mom after taking what was supposed to be short term job in London, and falling in love with another woman. Hadley feels abandoned and wants nothing to do with her father’s new life, and is very hesitant to even go to his wedding. I find myself completely engaged in the anger that Hadley feels towards her father. I think this is where the strength in writing comes in, as Jennifer E. Smith strikes the perfect balance with this relationship, where Hadley, and the reader, can be so inceredibly angry with what he has done, but there are still little pieces of redeemable qualiaties that keep him from being the father that needs to be written off and removed from her life. It impresses me how much I can feel invested and involved in this story line, despite the fact that I have absolutely no experience that I can relate to it. Hadley’s dad is a very flawed character but he has obvioulsy been an important and influential person in her life, so it is very easy to feel the frustration and anger that has been building up inside of her.
“It’s not the changes that will break your heart, it’s that tug of familiarity.”
Smith so eloquently builds up these emotions that have been developing for months inside of her main character. If everything had changed completely she would be able to detach herself, but it’s those little things that still remind her of the father that he used to be, that make it hard for her to deal with everything, and keep her straddling this line of anger and hurt.
“And though all grooms look happy on their wedding day, there’s something in the eyes of this one in particular that nearly takes Hadley’s breath away. It knocks the wind out of her, that look of his, the joy in his eyes, the depth of his smile. It stops her cold, splits her right open, wrings her heart out like it’s nothing more than a wet towel. It makes her want to go home all over again.”
Hadley feels like an outsider in her own father’s life. Here he is, happier than ever, and she has absolutely nothing to do with it. This is something that is heartbreaking to witness, and I feel is the greatest strength of this novel.
It is as if this concept is taken straight from my daydreams. Sitting on a plane next to the boy who is “meant to be” is a concept I have dreamt up through many of my own travels over the years, (there goes that book idea) so reading about it is a lot of fun.
“Someone once told her there’s a formula for how long it takes to get over someone, that it’s half as long as the time you’ve been together. Hadley has her doubts about how accurate this could possibly be, a calculation so simple for something as complicated as heartbreak.”
This book plays with the idea of how long it can take for someone to make a significant impact on your life. Much like Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, it shows that losing someone you’ve only known for a few hours can be just as heartbreaking as losing someone you have known for years, though perhaps in a different way. Maybe with short interactions you’re not just losing that person, but what could have been. It’s not knowing how it could have turned out that makes it that much harder to deal with. Heartbreak is a complicated matter.
As it turns out, Oliver is dealing with his own pain, his father has died and he is in London for the funeral. But much like Hadley, Oliver’s loss is very complicated. He had a difficult relationship with his father while he was alive, and is now dealing with a mixture of emotions, and the fact that he is not all that upset to have lost him. In a way Hadley’s and Oliver’s stories are mirroring each other at this point. Hadley is devastated by her father’s joy in getting married, while Oliver is numb and lacking the expected emotion from his father’s death. Both situations come with with guilt.
Oliver is everything you could hope for in a YA romantic interest. He’s cute, he’s British, he’s wonderful but imperfect.
“Like the one small imperfection that makes the whole painting work somehow”
I think that it is this imperfection that makes Oliver work. If you compare him to Graham, from This is What Happy Looks Like, I think it is the imperfection that makes Oliver come out on top. Really it is imperfection in their love story as a whole that makes it work.
Hadley herself is also also a very balanced character. She’s very realateable, and not frustrating to read like a lot of YA characters, but she is still flawed in her interactions in her family, in a way that every teen is. Hadley is full of anger. and not just a cliched, “I’m a teenager an I hate the world so I’m going to wear dark clothes and listen to angry punk rock,” kind of anger, but the kind of anger that comes from hurt and heartbreak. She is so angry with her dad, but he is not around for her let out that anger, and so she lets it build up inside.
She says hurtful things to her mother, and projects a lot of her anger towards her in a way that is very authentic to teenage girls. In all of her feelings towards her father, she is unable to communicate her anger towards him, and so she takes it out on her mother, the parent she still trusts to stick around. This is a flaw that I think strengthens her as a character, and makes her a realistic teenage voice.
So in case you can’t tell by this point, I love this book. It is cute, fun and romantic, but also packs a ton of depth, through it’s characters, writing, and emotion. It’s not often I can find a book that hits all of these points in just the right way. For me this is definitely a book that I can enjoy repeatedly, as both a feel good and an emotional kind of read.