Emma and her neighbor Peter are both lonely in a way that only bothers them occasionally. They both come from families they don’t quite understand. They both feel like something big is missing from their lives and they’re both about to search for answers. When Emma makes a discovery that shakes the foundations of her identity, she convinces Peter to join her for a road trip.
Each of them has something to find: For Emma, it is a grave – a grave that may be her only connection to her family. Peter is seeking something harder to define, but perhaps easier to navigate – a freedom, a sense of something more than what he has. Together, they take to the open road, engaging in a universal quest to make sense of who they are and where they come from and learning a thing or two about love along the way.
This book is another one that I had mixed feelings about, though I mostly liked it. I think it’s the fact that compared to the author’s other books that I’ve read, it fell a bit short in comparison. The near-ending did have me moved to tears, so I give much of the credit of liking this story to that one point. Also, the dog.
Emma in a way is kind of unlikeable, she seems to push people away because she feels out of place in her academic-focused family, and being the youngest child with siblings that are 15+ years older than her. I can’t say I blame her for feeling like an outcast, but the way she deals with it makes me want to slap her at times. I have to appreciate her teenage rebellion and bravery to steal her brother’s car in New York and drive all the way down to North Carolina to visit her twin brother’s grave a few days after she found out about him, rather than confront her parents about it. It’s stupid, yes, but it also shows how far apart from her family she feels that she has to confront the issue in this way.
Peter was a sweetheart and I loved how good of a friend he was, even though he and Emma weren’t really friends-friends. If anything, he was closer to her parents than she was because of his love for maps and knowledge of the Civil War. He has no hesitation to join Emma on her road trip and doesn’t even ask why she’s doing it. He just goes. I also love him for his aspiration to get out in the world, and feel bad that his father makes him feel bad for wanting to go to college elsewhere.
During the trip Emma and Peter learn more about each other and form a real friendship, which I really loved. The two of them, and the stray dog they picked up, make a cute little rag-tag group as they travel south looking for answers and wait for the other shoe to drop for them leaving without permission. However, what I didn’t care for was the “romance” that formed between Emma and Peter as it felt forced. I didn’t really see any sort of chemistry between them throughout the book. There were slight hints that Peter might have had a crush on Emma in the past (and possibly present) but there was no indication that Emma was at all attracted to Peter in any way.
The story does have a good ending, which as I said earlier, really made up for the lack of chemistry and slight annoyance of Emma. Another reason this story fell short for me was the fact that I just feel like it’s missing something. But, that’s just me. Overall, it’s a good read, but I do feel that it’s not the strongest of Jennifer E. Smith’s books.
Rating: 3/5 stars
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