It's hot as sin where I live, so it seemed like the perfect time to settle in with an iced coffee and a light summer romance (which would be better read at a beach and not between work shifts, but hey). Since I like Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I was eager to give Field Notes on Love a try. Without further ado, let's dive into the review.
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Category: Candy Book
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Rating: 2/5 Stars
"If you had to describe love in one word, what would it be?"
"I have no idea."
"It could be anything. Like, say . . . pizza."
Having just been dumped by his girlfriend, British-born Hugo is still determined to take his last-hurrah-before-college train trip across the United States. One snag: the companion ticket is already booked under the name of his ex, Margaret Campbell. Nontransferable, no exceptions. Enter the new Margaret C. (Mae for short), an aspiring filmmaker with big dreams. After finding Hugo's spare ticket offer online, she's convinced it's the perfect opportunity to expand her horizons. When the two meet, the attraction is undeniable, and both find more than they bargained for. As Mae pushes Hugo to explore his dreams for his future, he'll encourage her to channel a new, vulnerable side of her art. But when life off the train threatens the bubble they've created for themselves, will they manage to keep their love on track?
Field Notes on Love is cute in a simplistic, Hallmark way. Of the main duo, Hugo stands out the most with an awkward, endearing personality and quick sense of humor. Though Mae begins the journey with clear-cut goals and seemingly more at stake (she needs an excellent film to get into the college film program she wants), Hugo's arc is more impactful in that he finds a goal (to travel and explore the world outside his huge family for once).
It took me a long time to warm up to Mae, and by the end I wasn't sure I liked her so much as empathized with her. She's headstrong, yes, but also a bit aloof, sometimes prickly without reason to be, and the conversations (usually the highlight of a romance) often fall flat thanks to Mae's bland responses.
"I'm working up some questions for my interview with Ida."
"Want to practice on me? I do a mean American accent."
"You're not Ida."
Well, alright then.
The romance moves too fast and without much foundation, considering so many of Hugo and Mae's conversations go like this. While they share their goals with one another, Hugo is always more vulnerable in his hopes, fears, and conflicted emotions. Mae just seems single-minded in her quest to finish a film. She doesn't come clean about any fears (except not getting into film school) and she has no vulnerabilities or emotions not tied to her work.
I respect how Hugo admires Mae's ambition, but I'm not sure he (or the reader) ever gets to know Mae. So the two being crazy drawn to each other from day one and acting as if they're in a committed relationship by day three feels more than a little rushed.
Since the romance falls into the reader's lap, there's not much in the way of conflict or plot. The most interesting aspect is Hugo's concern over whether he can defer his university scholarship for a year to travel. I also enjoyed Hugo's relationship with each of his five siblings and Mae's quirky dads and nana. The secondary characters jump off the page more than the relationship, which feels like a backdrop rather than the plot.
"Go back to wherever you were," Nana says sternly, her face a little too close to the phone. "I want to clap eyes on this fellow of yours."
"No way," Mae says, glancing back at Hugo [. . .]. "I'm not doing that."
"I'll give you twenty bucks."
"I'll let you pick the movies at Thanksgiving."
For all its boring sections and flimsy plot, Field Notes is still a sweet, somewhat quirky read to pass a lazy afternoon with—the equivalent of a one-and-a-half hour Hallmark movie. It doesn't pack as much punch as, say, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, but it's a good filler book to read between heavier ones.
"Pizza," he says again. "Definitely pizza."
She shakes her head in mock exasperation. "Okay, fine. Then why?"
"Because," he says with a shrug, "it's warm and gooey."
[. . .] "And?"
"And I always thought it was amazing [. . .]. But if I'm being honest, I didn't know how amazing it could be until this week."