amandaorange

United States

hopeful romantic | 16 | she/her | still figuring life out | joined july 2020
I am a shoebox filled with scraps of all the people I've been.

Notes on "Field Notes on Love"

January 19, 2021

If you had asked me a few years ago if I read romance books, I would have answered with a hard no. Because what could be more boring than reading about two people falling in love? It's obvious that my opinion has changed vastly since then. While I'm not sure why or when my thoughts on the genre changed, I became the type of person who just had to read that new book with pastel pink hearts on the cover. That's where Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith enters the scene. I may not know how to spell the word "field" without turning to Google, but I do know that this is one of my all-time favorite books. 
The story is told in alternating perspectives of teenagers Hugo Wilkinson, a boy with five siblings, one ex, and two train tickets; and Margaret (a.k.a. Mae) Campbell, an aspiring filmmaker with the name on Hugo's train tickets. When Hugo's girlfriend breaks up with him before their trip across the United States, he is left with two tickets and no way to use them- not without someone named Margaret Campbell. So, he makes a post online looking for another Margaret to accompany him on his trip, pretending to be the Margaret that purchased the tickets. 
I read this book soon after a breakup, and I didn't realize how much it helped me until I read it for the second time a few months later. I related with all of the characters for different reasons. In particular a line that stuck with me was "You can't stay with someone only out of inertia," a quote from Hugo's ex-girlfriend (as she was breaking up with him). It didn't feel like a very good sign to be relating with the ex on only the third page of the book, but Margaret was never villainized for breaking up with him, no matter how hurt Hugo felt. I related with Hugo because of his conflict about wanting to become his own person, and not just go with what he had always thought would be his path in life. I also related with Mae's struggle with her work and her realization that she has to live her life, as well as her efforts to do so. 
"If you spend too much time thinking about when it will disappear, you'll miss the whole thing," is a quote from Mae's grandmother that I've interpreted as meaning to live in the moment, and is something that I've been doing my best to live by. 
The setting is also such a cool aspect of this book. While the characters go on their personal journeys of figuring out exactly where they sit in their own lives, they also physically journey across the United States, stopping several times along the way. It was entertaining to watch as the characters progressed in their relationships (with each other as well as other people in their lives) as the train moved on, and watch as the film Mae beings on the train evolves. It felt very much as if I was growing with the characters as the book went on.
I felt like this book was a beautiful representation of love and a perfect reminder of how beautiful life and love really are. I'd highly recommend this to anyone looking for that kind of reminder. Anyone who is a fan of Jennifer E. Smith's other novels, or authors like Jenny Han, Jenna Evans Welch, Jenn Bennet, and Stephanie Perkins would also enjoy this book. At it's base, it really is just a cheesy teen romance, but it definitely has it's stop-and-make-you-think moments. If you're a fan of contemporary romance and want to get out of your own head for a while, this book will certainly take you on a trip while you fall in love with these characters, with love, and with life. 

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