It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: traveling across America by train.But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Nontransferable, no exceptions.
Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.
A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up to them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Jennifer E. Smith is one of my go-to contemporary authors. While I’ve only fallen head-over-heels in love with one of her books, The Geography of You and Me, her other books provide such-feel good vibes and really deliver on their premises. This of course includes her latest release, Field Notes on Love. Hugo and his girlfriend have planned a train trip across the United States, but when she breaks up with him, Hugo has to find someone of the same name to take the non-transferrable train ticket. Enter Mae Campbell, an aspiring filmmaker who is looking for some sort of adventure before starting her freshmen year of college.
Field Notes on Love is for sure a book that you can read over the course of one day. I didn’t do this myself over the course of the two busy days (including some Netflix watching), but I sort’ve wish I had saved this one for binge-reading on a beach or pool day this summer. At its 271 pages, readers can easily join in on Hugo and Mae’s weeklong journey in one day. The premise of the book completely delivered, as the majority of the book takes place on the train. The train was such an atmospheric setting, making me want to take a cross-country train trip myself! While much of the book focuses on Hugo and Mae, I liked Mae’s interviews with the other passengers and getting a glimpse at their own lives. Although I wish we spent more time in the cities and places the duo visit, what makes this book work so well as a shorter book is that there is really no fluff.
Jennifer E. Smith is truly the queen of balancing two perspectives, as this is a common theme in her books. The book alternates between Hugo and Mae’s perspectives in fairly short chapters. We obviously get to experience their journey and their relationship development, but I really enjoyed getting to learn about their personal and family lives. Although there is romance, I would argue that this book is more about personal growth. Mae deals with being rejected by her dream film school, while Hugo tries to determine how he can make a life for himself that hasn’t already been determined. Although much of Hugo’s storyline is trying to be an individual instead of being known as a sextuplet, where can I get a book about all of the six siblings? Hugo’s online and over-the-phone conversations with his 5 siblings brought much humor to the story. I also liked Mae’s communication with her own family, especially Nana. Who else would encourage her to fall in love with a boy on a train?
I think many readers will easily go into Field Notes on Love knowing that a romance is blooming, but in a way, I wish it didn’t happen. One of the reasons why I didn’t give this book five stars is because I didn’t really see the love bloom. Hugo and Mae definitely have some chemistry, but I was honestly rooting for them to just have this week together and be done. If they were meant to be together, I think that’s where the book could have been a bit longer, feeling that the book was missing ‘that something.’
Overall, Field Notes on Love is the perfect binge-read to cure your contemporary need and wanderlust this summer.
Have you read Field Notes on Love or any other Jennifer E. Smith books? Share in the comments!