Jennifer E. Smith

I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book over at  The Bookette. I didn’t intend to write a review of it, and this is not really a review, but a musing, rather.
It is a lovely teen book about first love, with all its anticipation and doubt, except that these feelings are concentrated into just one day. The book also deals with broken families as well as grief and loss, and all are described with understanding and compassion. The love story between Hadley and Oliver is very sweet, and although it didn’t bowl me over, I suspect that is just because I am not the targeted audience, and I know many a teen reader who would absolutely love it. Smith’s writing is full of emotion and longing and conveys the “butterflies in your stomach” feelings of first encounters very successfully.

However there is something in this book which really stroke a chord, really talked to me. Hadley’s relationship with her estranged father is strained but as she recalls happier times and the bonds between them, she mentions the importance of books and storytelling in their relationship throughout her childhood. Her father is a professor of literature, specialising in poetry. She talks about how he used to read her stories every night, in his study, for an hour, even when she was old enough to read for herself:

… And later, when it started to become clear that she cared more about soccer practice, and phone privileges than Jane Austen or Walt Whitman, when the hour turned into a half-hour and every night turned into every other, it no longer mattered. The stories had become a part of her by then; they stuck to her bones like a good meal, bloomed inside of her like a garden.

Then she mentions him buying books for her often, sometimes even other editions of books they already owned, much to the dismay of her mother.

… But Hadley understood. It wasn’t that she was meant to read them all. Maybe some day she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a professor, a lover of stories, and he was building her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses.

I found these words very touching, and felt very emotional reading them. I hope my children see me in that way one day. I don’t see myself as a particularly gifted or “natural” mother, but if I achieve the above, I will feel very proud indeed.