"Utterly romantic." Jenny Han, NYT bestselling author of To All the Boys I've Loved Before
The bestselling author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight returns with a meet-cute romance about Hugo and Mae, two teens who are thrown together on a cross-country train trip that will teach them about love, each other, and the futures they can build for themselves.
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?
"One of the loveliest, most touching romances of 2019 thus far that gets at the nature of something deeply buried in all of our hearts." Entertainment Weekly
"This warm, romantic, never overly sentimental story is told with humor and heart....A deeply satisfying read about a life-changing journey full of poignant moments." Kirkus, starred review
About the Author
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of eight novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @JenESmith or visit her at jenniferesmith.com.
Read an Excerpt
The shock of it takes a few minutes to absorb. During that time, Hugo sits with his head bent, his fingers laced behind his neck, trying to process the fact that Margaret Campbell—his girlfriend of nearly three years—is breaking up with him.
“You know I’ll always love you,” she says, then adds, “in a way.”
Hugo winces at this. But Margaret seems determined to forge ahead.
“The thing is,” she says, and he lifts his head, interested to find out what—precisely—it is, this thing that’s apparently happening. She gazes back at him with something like sympathy. “You can’t stay with someone only out of inertia, right?”
It’s clear the correct answer here is “Right.” But Hugo can’t bring himself to say it. He just continues to stare at her, wishing his brain weren’t quite so muddled.
“I know you must feel the same way,” she continues. “Things have been off between us for ages now. It’s obvious that it’s not working—”
“Is it?” Hugo asks, and Margaret gives him a weary look. But he’s not trying to be cheeky. It’s just that none of this seems particularly obvious to him, and his face prickles with warmth as he wonders how he managed to get it all so wrong.
“Hugo. Come on. It’s been hard enough when we’re right across the road from each other. We must be barking mad to think we can do this when I’m all the way in California and you’re—”
She stops abruptly, and they both blink at each other.
“Here,” he says eventually, his voice flat.
Margaret sighs. “See, that’s just it. Maybe if you’d stop acting like getting a scholarship to a perfectly good uni is the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone in the history of—”
“Hugo,” she says, interrupting him. “You’ve been in terrible form all summer. I’m not the only one who’s noticed. I realize this isn’t what you wanted, but at some point you just have to . . . well, get on with it, I suppose.”
He scratches at his knee, unable to look at her. She’s right, and they both know it, but the fact of this makes him want to crawl under the bed to avoid the rest of the conversation.
“Listen, I get it,” she says, playing with the end of her blond ponytail. “If things were different, this wouldn’t have been your first choice.”
This is only half-true. Hugo certainly wouldn’t have minded trying for Oxford or Cambridge or St. Andrews, all of which would’ve been options had his A levels been the only consideration. But the University of Surrey is highly regarded too. It’s more that he never had a choice in the matter, that his path was set out for him long ago, and something about that has always made him feel like an animal at the zoo, penned in and pacing and a bit claustrophobic.
“But if things were different,” Margaret continues, “you wouldn’t have been offered the scholarship at all.”
She says this as if it were nothing, an incidental detail, and not the very thing Hugo has been torturing himself over for years now. Because he didn’t get a scholarship to the University of Surrey for being a brilliant essayist (which he is) or a maths genius (which he’s not). He didn’t get it for his skills as a pianist (though he’s decent) or his ability on the football pitch (he’s completely rubbish). It’s not the result of any particular skill or talent or accomplishment.
No, Hugo got the scholarship—as did his five siblings—simply for being born.
The minute they arrived in the world—one after another, Hugo bringing up the rear—they were showered with gifts. The local market gave them a year’s supply of formula. The pharmacy sent a truckload of free nappies. The mayor came to visit with keys to the city: six of them, one for each of England’s fifth-ever set of sextuplets, affectionately dubbed “the Surrey Six.” And a wealthy donor presented their exhausted and deeply overwhelmed parents with scholarships to the local university for each of their half-dozen newborns.
The man—an eccentric billionaire who made his fortune through a chain of upscale coffee shops—had gotten his start at the University of Surrey, and was elated at the thought of the publicity that would one day be generated by having the sextuplets there. When he died a few years ago, he left the scholarship in the hands of the university council, and they’ve been equally enthusiastic, making all sorts of plans for their arrival.
It’s only Hugo who isn’t thrilled. He knows he’s a complete monster for being anything less than grateful. It’s just that he hates the thought of accepting something so big simply because of the unlikely circumstances of his birth. Especially when his whole life has been about that.
“Look, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea,” Margaret is saying. “About us. About why we’re—”
“Not an us anymore?”
She flinches. “I know I’ve been hard on you, but I don’t want you to think this is happening just because you’ve been moping all summer. Or because of the distance. It’s more that—well, I suppose it feels like it’s time, doesn’t it?”
Hugo scrubs at his eyes, still trying to absorb all this, and when he looks up again, Margaret’s face has softened. She moves over to sit beside him on the bed, and he automatically leans into her, their shoulders pressed together. They’re both quiet for a moment, and he tries to focus his thoughts, which are zipping around in his head. Somewhere inside him, buried so deep he’s never thought to examine it, is the knowledge that she’s right about them, and his heart sinks because he’s somehow the last to know everything, even his own feelings.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This one somehow slipped through my grasp. I didn't hear about it until it was coming out the next week. And that's seems so weird since I'm a lover of contemp romances. Especially ones that are diverse somehow. Whatever the case may be, I hurried to check it out when I saw it was available. Hugo thought him and Mae had a great relationship. That is, until she broke up with him right before they decided to go on a train trip across the United States and says she's not going. Unfortunately for Hugo, the tickets are now non-refundable and non-transferrable. So he decides to do something outrageous: Find another Maragaret online and get her to be the stand in. He meets Mae, someone who needs to learn more about herself than she thought. As the train goes on, they learn they both do, but they also need each other. I guess my main gripe about this was the plot. I mean I get that it was all about making her documentary and things, but I don't feel it was much more than that. For the most part it was a bit boring. I think had I not been driving, I would have DNF'ed it. And then everything started happening at the end and that annoyed me. I almost didn't make it that far to get to all this. I also didn't feel for their relationship as much as I thought I would. It just seemed to be non-existent and then full-on we're in love and (SPOILER) I'm visiting her at school. Idk it just didn't seem believable to me. I think at this point I would have preferred instalove to that. As for the characters individually, I actually did like them. I loved Hugo and their family, but I could definitely understand why he felt he needed to get away from them in order to find out who he is. I mean I just have three sisters (no we're not quadruplets lol) and I completely understand that. With Mae I felt her growth throughout the story. It's hard to be criticized about something you're really proud of, and it takes a very strong person to get up and try again anyways. I admired her a little more because of it. I was happy that Smith decided to write this in both of their POV's because had it just been in one of their minds, we would have missed out on alot of this information. I thought this was your standard contemp troupe: "They meet, they get together, they lose each other, they find each other again." I think this was what stopped me from fully falling for this one. It felt too much like something I had read before. It was too by the book. I would have liked something a bit less standard. Not saying I didn't like it, because Smith's writing style is still very good, I just wish next time she goes outside the box. I didn't feel like this was anything to write home about, but I did still enjoy it. I would definitely recommend this to my teens who ask for a super sweet, contemp romance read, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for in a read.
Hugo is all set for leaving his six siblings behind for his vacation in America with his girlfriend Margaret Campbell, but then gets dumped. His girlfriend very graciously gives him the trip anyway but there’s one problem. She was the one who booked it so unless he can find someone with her exact name, he won’t be able to use the trip. With his brother’s help he puts out an ad online for a Margaret Campbell who’d like a little adventure taking a cross country train trip with a stranger. Surprisingly, he gets a lot of responses! No surprise though, he ends up going with a girl his age, named Mae. Field Notes on Love ended up being a journey of discovery for both of them. They learned a lot about who they are singularly, but also who they were together. This novel really took me by surprise! Hugo, the youngest of sextuplet siblings, he has always been a follower, going along with whatever plan his siblings have made. This vacation is the chance for Hugo to venture off on his own and make some discoveries about himself. Mae was the exact opposite. She made things happen, but when her life’s plan falls apart, she is adrift. She takes this cross country adventure as a chance to prove to others that she can shake things up and gather life’s experiences. Through getting to know each other they find out a lot about themselves. My favorite thing about this novel was how Mae and Hugo interviewed their fellow travelers about the meaning of love. As we heard each person’s story we’d learn a little more about Mae and Hugo’s lives. Those intertwining moments really set this book apart from other YA contemporary novels and made it special. This is my second novel by Jennifer E. Smith, having read Windfall and been equally charmed by that story. She has a knack for gently leading her readers in a direction and then “thwack’! hitting them over the head with the power of her words. I like that a lot and will keep coming back for those gentle smacks. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
5 out of 5 Stars My Review: Hugo’s life has been spelled out for him, and he has pretty much felt like an animal on display at a zoo, since the moment he was born and became one of England’s fifth-ever set of sextuplets. His mum helps supplement his dad’s teacher’s salary by writing a blog about he and his five siblings as they’ve grown up (embarrassing moments and all), and in the fall, all six will attend the University of Surrey on full-ride scholarships at the donation of a wealthy donor. During move in, a film crew will be there to provide the footage for the live stream of reality-TV lovers pleasure. Their first weekend on campus includes six interviews. Hugo has one last chance at freedom of the unknown before uni starts this fall–he and girlfriend Margaret Campbell are to take a train ride across America. Starting in New York, and ending in California, he needs an adventure for one week on his own before starting uni with his five siblings, and, most importantly, for a chance to get a say in his own life. They will say good-bye in Cali where Margaret will stay on to attend uni at Stanford. Or at least, that was the plan. Until Margaret broke up with him. After three years of dating. He gets it, he does, but man–he really wanted to go on that trip. Margaret gifts him the two tickets and says to go on without her, to bring one of his siblings. The problem is, everything is in her name, and is nontransferable. He needs someone named Margaret Campbell to get him on board the train. Hugo hatches a plan; he puts out an ad online for a Margaret Campbell. He sends a note into the universe to see if another Margaret Campbell can help him rescue his holiday and get one of her own in exchange. Interested Margarets’ are asked to e-mail HugoIsNotANutter@gmail.com. Mae Campbell has grown up in New York with her two dads, and is a filmmaker. Well, a crushed filmmaker. She was recently denied entry to the University of SoCal’s School for Cinematic Arts film program. Mae is on a mission to become a better cinematographer. According to her recent ex-boyfriend film critic, her film-making is brilliant, but “impersonal.” She apparently needs to learn how to let people in, to show people who she really is. Taking life into their own hands, Mae and Hugo meet in New York, both having lied to their parents, both nervous, both surprised at how comfortable they are around each other, and both surprised to find the other particularly attractive. Enjoyable, funny, romantic, cute, and warm-hearted, Jennifer E. Smith is victorious with Field Notes on Love. The latest YA romantic-comedy for the canon, I definitely recommend this title to anyone looking for their next great read. Curl up with a cuppa and enjoy! ~*All the Love of Books From Me to You
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour hosted by Bibliophile Soprano. I’m so excited to be a part of this blog tour, especially since I loved this book so much! Field Notes of Love follows two strangers from different parts of the world as they take a one-week trip to find themselves, only to have discovered each other along the way as well. I loved getting to know Hugo and Mae, and seeing the changes in their interactions as they spend more time with each other. They become so supportive of each other without compromising their own endeavors. Plus, both their banters and deep conversations are so interesting to read about! I was whizzing through this books, so engrossed in their story, that I didn’t even realize when it was ending. Their affection for each other wasn’t a slow-burn but I enjoyed reading about it nonetheless. But what made me love this even more is the fact that this book isn’t just a love story; it’s so much more! This also touches up on self-discovery and what it’s like to experience the world on your own, while you’re young. It also highlights the importance of support towards dreams. And, not to mention, the great familial aspect in the book. As much as I loved reading about Hugo and Mae as a couple, I also cherished them both as individuals. Being part of a sextuplet, Hugo has a big warm family that has always stuck together from day one. They clearly love and support each other but, as I assume most people do, he can’t help wonder what it would feel like to be on his own for a change. To be known as Hugo, and not only as a part of a sextuplet. And then there’s Mae, a would-be filmmaker who was told to “live more” and so, she did. Together with her two dads and wonderful grandmother, they have an admirable family dynamic which adds up to my fun reading experience. The ending of the book did feel quite abrupt and I could have done with a bit more time with Hugo’s family (since I love big families) but aside from that, Field Notes on Love is spectacular. I went through a lot of emotions with this one and I highly recommend it! I’ve only read and loved one other book from the author before but I could tell that Jennifer E. Smith is gonna be one of my auto-buy authors!