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Field Notes on Love

Review

Field Notes on Love

British-born Hugo has had his life mapped out for him since the day he was born: he will attend his town’s University with his five other brothers and sisters. He is the youngest of a set of sextuplets and has always longed for something more: to get away and be his own person outside of the group. Unfortunately, Hugo was just dumped by his girlfriend a few weeks before they were supposed to embark on a train ride across the United States together.

"I am constantly blown away by [Smith's] simplistic yet detailed writing style. [FIELD NOTES ON LOVE] does not disappoint."

In comes Mae Campbell, an aspiring filmmaker, who was just rejected from her dream school’s film program. Despite this, Mae is looking for a new film to produce, something that will expand her horizons because she is convinced that was the reason why she was denied. Much to Hugo’s dismay, the train tickets were bought under his ex-girlfriends name, Margaret Campbell, and are non-transferable. On a whim, Hugo decides to offer a spare ticket online to any Margaret Campbell, and to his luck, Mae jumps at the opportunity to go on an adventure and get material for her next film.

I have had the opportunity to read all of Smith’s novels, and I am constantly blown away by her simplistic yet detailed writing style. This one does not disappoint. Her cultivation of the main characters, Hugo and Mae, but also the side characters, leads me to feel like I actually know them as people; she meticulously details their hopes, fears, aspirations, personality characteristics, etc. The reader is able to watch Hugo and all of his five siblings and parents interact, and she captures the supportive, loyal, loving relationship they have. Smith lived a few years of her life in the United Kingdom, and this is apparent with the numerous details she utilizes to describe Hugo’s home, packed with British words and their dialect. We are also able to get a glimpse of Mae’s family dynamic, with her two dads, and her grandmother who served as the sole female role model in her life.

Among many aspects of this story that I adored, the one I treasure the most is that this journey opened both Hugo and Mae’s eyes to new places, people and feelings. As the novel progresses, Mae has an epiphany that she will interview other passengers on the train, who are of varying demographics and use the material to create a film. To keep the interviews consistent, Mae asks the subjects three questions, two of which were taken from Hugo’s first correspondence with her and the third: what is love? In the end, Mae’s own definition of love begins to change while Hugo makes a critical decision about his future.

Highly recommended to any young adult reader who is searching for a quick, light novel to read, with hints of romance, trains and pizza. Smith has outdone herself again!

Reviewed by Ryan H., Teen Board Member on March 22, 2019

Field Notes on Love
by Jennifer E. Smith