Lucy lives on the twenty-fourth floor. Owen lives in the basement. It's fitting, then, that they meet in the middle — stuck between two floors of a New York City. It's fitting, then, that they meet in the middle -- stuck between two floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. Lucy soon moves abroad with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father. Smartly observed and. Read "The Geography of You and Me" by Jennifer E. Smith available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. Lucy lives on the .
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Jennifer Smith — The Geography of You and Me Genre: #Modern_prose_mb Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and. The Geography of You and Me book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (review). Karen Coats. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Volume 67, Number 9, May , p.
Yes, yes it will, obviously. I think that from the disclaimer, the sarcasm and the fact that it took me about half an hour to write the introduction in a way that offended the least amount of readers you can probably guess that I didn't like this book — again putting it in the nicest way possible.
I don't want to discourage you from reading this book, and you musty remember that this is only my opinion, and the fact that I am a horrible cold—hearted cynical human being. I had so much hope and anticipation for this book. The theme of travel thrilled me and I was thoroughly looking forward to getting stuck into this book.
Then I started reading the book. It's as if Smith just took a general template from the general love story and added postcards and a bit of traveling, which was in fact mostly its only selling point. After the first chapter I could have easily stopped reading and guessed the ending. Most of the book has very little point or development; it could essentially be finished in the first and last chapter.
However their character development pretty much stopped after the first ten pages contain their initial descriptions. The characters are so one dimensional that I couldn't even be brought to dislike them, they just were, and they carried on just being through the book until the last page. I neither sympathized or felt connected to either of them. Both Owen and Lucy were a mixture of generic or Smith trying to make them different to the point of it being even more generic than if she just stuck with one being poor and the other rich.
The way this book was marketed only made for more of a let down in my opinion. I expected interesting descriptions of their travels which they would then convey to the other via postcard. I must say that there was a severe lack of travelling, however to make it worse even the limited amount was overshadowed by the constant whining of either character.
Maybe it would be redeemed by the postcards you ask? Most were just a couple of sentences long at most, or a repetition of the phrase "I wish you were here. It was tragically unfunny — however I must give credit for at one point I distinctly remember there being one joke where I went as far as to push more air out of my nose than usual — and that's about as funny as this gets. Now I get to the actual writing.
If you enjoy reading good literature, or even mediocre literature, I would suggest that you brace yourself for the writing. Now I am not one to even highlight books, however in this case I just had to bring pen to paper so that I could remember to address the types of thing that had made it into this book.
Now commences a rampage of quotes that will help you understand this book better: Owen descries Lucy as smelling of "the scent of something sweet. The day of the blackout, New York is experiencing a heat wave, they were trapped in a small elevator and then climbed a lot of stairs. In my non expert opinion, and as it was implied by the book, they are sweaty. Last I knew sweat did not smell pleasant especially if mixed with perfume, in which case it would be rancid.
Just give it a chance, Bartleby. Owen, he said, looking indignant, and she laughed. I know, she told him. But youre sounding just like Bartleby from the story. She waited to see if he knew it, then pushed on. Herman Melville? Author of Moby-Dick? I know that, he said. Whos Bartleby? A scrivener, she explained. Sort of a clerk.
But throughout the whole story, anytime someone asks him to do something, all he says is I would prefer not to. He considered this a moment. Yup, he said nally.
That pretty much sums up my feelings about New York. Lucy nodded. You would prefer not to, she said. But thats just because its new. Once you get to know it more, I have a feeling youll like it here.
Is this the part where you insist on taking me on a tour of the city, and we laugh and point at all the famous sights, and then I download an I NY T-shirt and live happily ever after? The T-shirt is optional, she told him. For a long moment, they eyed each other across the cramped space, and then, nally, he shook his head. Sorry, he said. I know Im being a jerk.
Lucy shrugged. Its okay. We can just chalk it up to claustrophobia. Or lack of oxygen. Its just been a really tough summer. And I guess Im not used to the idea of being here yet. His eyes caught hers through the darkness, and the elevator felt suddenly smaller than it had just minutes before. Lucy thought of all the other times shed been crammed in here over the years: with women in fur coats and men in expensive suits; with little white dogs on pink leashes and doormen wheeling heavy boxes on luggage carts.
Shed once spilled an entire container of orange juice on the carpet right where Owen was sitting, which had made the whole place stink for days, and another time, when she was little, shed drawn her name in green marker on the wall, much to her mothers dismay. Shed read the last pages of her favorite books here, cried the whole way up and laughed the whole way down, made small talk to a thousand different neighbors on a thousand different days.
Shed fought with her two older brothers, kicking and clawing, until the door dinged open and they all walked out into the lobby like perfect angels. Shed ridden down to greet her dad when he arrived home from every single business trip, and had even once fallen asleep in the corner as she waited for her parents to come home from a charity auction.
And how many times had they all been stuffed in here together? Dad, with his newspaper folded under his arm, always standing near the door, ready to bolt; Mom, wearing a thin smile, seesawing between amusement and i mpatience 11 with the rest of them; the twins, grinning as they elbowed each other; and Lucy, the youngest, tucked in a corner, always trailing behind the rest of the family like an ellipsis at the end of a sentence.
And now here she was, in a box that seemed too tiny to hold so many memories, with the walls pressing in all around her and nobody to come to her rescue. Her parents were in Paris, across the ocean, as usual, on the kind of trip that only ever included the two of them. And her brotherst he only friends shed ever really hadwere now thousands of miles away at college.
When theyd left a few weeks ago Charlie heading off to Berkeley, and Ben to Stanford Lucy couldnt help feeling suddenly orphaned. It wasnt unusual for her parents to be away; theyd always made a habit of ying off to snow- covered European cities or exotic tropical islands on their own. But being left behind was never that bad when there were three of them, and it was always her b rothers a twin pair of clowns, protectors, and f riends who had kept everything from unraveling.
Until now. She was used to being parentless, but being brotherlessand, thus, effectively f riendlesswas entirely new, and losing both of them at once seemed unfair. The whole family was now hopelessly scattered, and from where she s at all alone in New York Lucy felt it deeply just then, as if for the very rst time: the bigness of the world, the sheer scope of it.
Across the elevator, Owen rested his head against the 12 wall. It is what it is.
I hate that expression, Lucy said, a bit more forcefully than intended. Nothing is what it is. Things are always changing. They can always get better.
He looked over, and she could see that he was smiling, even as he shook his head. Youre totally nuts, he said. Were stuck in an elevator thats hot and stuffy and probably running out of air. Were hanging by a cord thats got to be smaller than my wrist. Your parents are who- k nows- where, and my dads in Coney Island.
And if nobodys come to get us by now, theres a good chance theyve forgotten about us entirely. So seriously, how are you still so positive?
Lucy slid out from the wall, folding her legs beneath her and leaning forward. How come your dads in Coney Island? Thats not the point. For the roller coasters? The hot dogs? The ocean? Arent you at all worried that nobodys coming to get us? It wont help anything, she said. Exactly, he said. Nope, she said. Fine, he said. Its not what it isnt. Lucy gave him a long look. I have no idea what youre saying. The darkness between them felt suddenly thin, imsy as tissue paper and even less substantial.
His eyes shone through the blackness as the silence stretched between them, and when he nally broke it, his voice was choked. Hes in Coney Island because thats where he rst met my mother, Owen said.
He bought owers to leave on the boardwalk. He wanted to do it alone. Lucy opened her mouth to say something to ask a question, perhaps, or to tell him she was sorry, a word too small to mean anything at a moment like t his but the silence felt suddenly fragile, and she could think of nothing worthy enough to break it. His head was bowed so that it was hard to make out the expression on his face, and she felt useless, sitting there without any idea of what to do.
But then a faint knock sent her heart up into her throat, and his eyes found hers in the dark. The sound came again, and Owen stood this time, moving over to the door and pressing his ear against it.
He knocked back, and they both listened. Even from where she was still sitting numbly in the middle of the oor, Lucy could hear the mufed voices outside, followed by the scrape of something metal. After a moment, she rose to her feet, too, and without a word, without even looking at each other, they stood there like that, shoulder to shoulder, like a couple of astronauts at the end of a long journey, waiting for the doors to open so they could step out into a dazzling new world.
Owen had woken before the sun was up, just as he had for the last forty- t wo mornings, jolted out of sleep with the feel of something heavy on his chest, a weight that pressed down on him like a st. He blinked at the unfamiliar ceiling, the faint cracks that formed a sort of map, and the y that roved between them, like an X marking some unknowable spot. In the next room, he could hear the clink of a coffee mug, and he knew his father was awake, too.
The last six weeks had turned them into b leary- eyed insomniacs, their days as shapeless as their nights, so that one simply bled into the other. It seemed tting that they were living underground now; what better place for a couple of ghosts?
His new room was less than half the size of his old one back in their sprawling, sun- drenched house in rural Pennsylvania, where hed been woken each morning by the sparrows just outside his window. Now he listened to a couple of pigeons squabbling against the narrow panel of glass near the ceiling, where the protective metal bars made what little light there was fall across his bed in slats. When he emerged into the hallway that separated his room from his fathers and led back to the small kitchen and sitting area, Owen caught a whiff of smoke, and the intensity of it, the vividness of the memory, almost took his knees out from under him.
He followed the scent to the living room, where he found his father sitting on the couch, hunched over a mug that was serving as a makeshift ashtray. I didnt think youd be up, he said, stabbing out the cigarette with a guilty expression. He ran a hand through his hair, which was just a shade or two darker than Owens, then sat back and rubbed his eyes. I didnt really sleep, Owen admitted, collapsing into the rocking chair across from him. He closed his eyes and took a long, slow breath.
He couldnt help himself; theyd been his mothers cigarettes, and the scent clenched at something inside him. Thered been eight left when she died, the crumpled pack recovered from the accident site and returned to them along with her wallet and keys and a few other odds and ends, and though his father didnt usually smoke, there were now only two.
Owen could chart the bad days in this way, by the tang of smoke in the mornings, the best and worst reminder of herone of the only ones left. You always hated these, Owen said, picking up the nearly empty box and spinning it in his hands. His father smiled faintly. I always said it would kill her. Owen lowered his eyes but couldnt help picturing the police report, the theory that shed been distracted while trying to light a cigarette. Theyd found the car upside down in a ditch.
The box was ten yards away. I thought Id head out to Brooklyn today, Dad said, a forced casualness to his voice, though Owen knew what that really meant, knew exactly where he was going and why. Youll be okay on your own? Owen thought about asking whether he might like some company, but he already knew the answer. Hed seen the owers resting on the kitchen counter last night, still wrapped in cellophane and already wilting.
It was their anniversary; the day didnt belong to Owen. He ran a hand over the pack of cigarettes and nodded. Well have dinner when I get back, Dad said, then picked up the ash- lled mug and padded out into the kitchen. Anything you want. Great, Owen called, and then before he could think better of it, he slid one of the last two cigarettes from the pack, twirled it once between his ngers, and tucked it into his pocket without quite knowing why.
In the doorway to his bedroom, he paused. Theyd been here nearly a month now, but the room was still lined with boxes, most of them h alf- open, the cardboard aps spread out like wings. This sort of thing would have driven his mother crazy, and he couldnt help smiling as he imagined 17 what her reaction would be, a mix of exasperation and bemusement.
Shed always kept things so tidy at home, the counters sparkling and the oors d ust- f ree, and Owen was suddenly glad she couldnt see this place, with its dim lighting and peeling paint, the mold that caked the spaces between bathroom tiles and the dingy appliances in the kitchen.
Whenever Owen used to complain about cleaning his room or having to do the dishes the moment they were nished with dinner, Mom would cuff him playfully on the head.
Our home is a reection of who we are, shed say in a singsong voice. Right, Owen would shoot back. And Im a mess. You are not, shed say, laughing. Youre perfect. Perfectly messy, Dad would say. She used to make them take off their shoes in the laundry room, only ever smoked on the back porch, and kept the pillows on the couches from getting too squashed.
Dad said it had always been this way, from the moment they bought the house, the two of them thrilled to nally own something so permanent after so much time on the road. Theyd spent the previous two years traveling around in a rickety van with all their worldly belongings stashed in the back. Theyd crisscrossed the country, camping out under the stars or sleeping curled in the backseat, whittling away their meager savings as they made their way across every state but Hawaii and Alaska.
It was only then that they returned to Pennsylvania, where theyd both grown u p and where it was time to grow up for a second time and settled down for good. But in spite of all the stories hed heard of their years on the road, Owen had never been much of anywhere. His parents seemed to have gotten it out of their system by the time he came along, and they were content to be in one place.
They had a house with a porch and a yard with an apple tree; there was a swingset around the side and a neighboring eld of grazing horses. They had a round kitchen table just big enough for three, a door the perfect size for a wreath at Christmastime, and enough nooks and crannies for long and drawn-out games of hide-and-seek. There was nowhere else they ever wanted to be. Alone in his bedroom, Owen heard the front door fall shut, then waited a few minutes before grabbing his phone and wallet and heading out, too, jogging up the stairs from the basement to the lobby, which he passed through quickly, his head bent.
It wasnt that he had anything against the residents of the building, but he didnt belong here, and neither did his father. Owen was just waiting for him to realize that, too. All morning, he walked.
This was his last day of freedom, 19 the last day he wouldnt be bound to show up for classes in a school that wasnt his, and he found himself pacing like a restless animal along the edge of the Hudson River.
He left his earbuds on, drowning out the sounds of the city, and he kept moving in spite of the heat. For lunch, he bought a hot dog from a street vendor, then cut over to Central Park, where he sat watching the tourists with their cameras and their maps and their round, shiny eyes.
He followed their gazes, trying his best to see what they saw, but all he could see were more people. It wasnt until late afternoon that he made his way back to the corner of S eventy- Second and Broadway, to the ornate stone building that was now his home. He paused just inside the lobby, reluctant to go back downstairs, where there was nothing to do but sit alone for the next few hours and wait for his dad to return.
Instead, he felt for the key in the pocket of his shorts. Hed taken the master set from his dads dresser during their rst week here, a wildly uncharacteristic move for him. Owen had always been overly cautious, not prone to breaking rules, but after only a few days here, the claustrophobic feel of the place had become too much to take, and he found a locksmith to make a copy of the key that unlocked the door to the r oof the only peaceful place, it seemed, in this entire city.
As he stepped into the elevator, he was already imagining the vast, windblown quiet f orty- two stories above, his music loud in his ears and his thoughts far away. He 20 punched the button and stood waiting for the ground to lift beneath his feet, still lost in thought, and he hadnt even bothered to look up when someone caught the doors just before they could close. But now, less than an hour later, he felt suddenly too aware of her, a presence beside him as prickly as the heat.
As they listened to the sounds on the other side of the door, he glanced down, noticing that her right foot was only inches away from his left one, and he curled his toes and rocked back on his heels and looked away again. He realized he was holding his breath, and he wondered if she was, too. Just before the door was pried open, he narrowed his eyes, expecting to be greeted by a sudden brightness.
But instead, the faces peering down at them from the eleventh oor which started halfway up the length of the elevator, a thick slab of concrete that bisected the doors were mostly lost in shadows, and the only light came from a couple of ashlights, which were being pointed directly in their faces, causing them both to blink.
Hi, Lucy said brightly, greeting them as if this was all very ordinary, as if they always met in this way: the doorman above them on his hands and knees, his face pale and moonlike in the dark, and beside him, a handyman sitting back on his heels and wiping at his forehead with a bandanna.
You guys okay? George asked, passing down a water bottle, which Owen grabbed from him and then handed 21 to Lucy. She nodded as she untwisted the cap and took a long swig. Its a little toasty, she said, giving the bottle back to Owen. But were ne. Is the whole building out? The handyman snorted. The whole city. Owen and Lucy exchanged a look. That can happen? Apparently, George said.
Its chaos out there. Trafc lights and everything? Owen asked, and the older man nodded, then clapped his hands, all business. Okay, he said.
Lets get you guys out of here. Lucy went rst, and when Owen tried to help her, she waved him away, hoisting herself up over the lip of the oor, then rising to her feet and brushing off her white dress.
Owen followed much less gracefully, opping onto the ledge like a sh run aground before hopping up. There was an emergency light at the far end of the hallway that cast a reddish glow, and it was a little bit cooler up there but not much; his palms were still sweaty and his T-shirt was still glued to his back. So when do they think well have power again? He couldnt help thinking of his father. No electricity meant no subways. No subways meant there was no way he could get back anytime soon. And in a situation like this, his absence would not go unnoticed.
No idea, George said, stooping to help pack up the tools. The clanging metal rang out along the walls, inter- 22 rupting the eerie silence. The phone lines are all jammed and the Internets down, too. No cell- phone reception, either, the handyman added. Its impossible to get any kind of information. I heard its the whole East Coast, George said. That a power plant in Canada got struck by lightning. The handyman rolled his eyes. And I heard it was an alien invasion.
Im just telling you what they were saying on the radio, George muttered, standing up again. He put a hand on Lucys shoulder, then looked from her to Owen. So you guys are okay? They both nodded. Good, he said. Ive got to go door-to-door and make sure everyones all right. You both have ashlights? Yup, Lucy said. Have you heard from my dad at all? Owen asked as casually as he could manage. He s Yeah, I know, George said.
He picked one hell of a day to beg off. I havent heard from him, but I wouldnt be worried. Nobodys heard from anyone. He had to go out to Brooklyn, Owen said, trying to think of some kind of excuse, an explanation to follow this, but the handyman who had been walking toward the stairwell paused and turned back around. Subways are down, he said. Its gonna be a long walk over the bridge Owen felt another pang of anxiety, though he was no 23 longer sure if it was for the fact that his father wasnt here to help or the idea that he might already be crossing the length of Brooklyn to get home.
It seemed far more likely that he was sitting on the darkened boardwalk, lost in memories and oblivious to the whims of the electrical grid. Even so, there was something odd about being separated like this, on opposite ends of the same city, a whole network of roads and rivers, bridges and trains between them, but still unable to make it across the miles.
You two be careful, George called back to them as he stepped into the stairwell behind the handyman. Ill be around if you need anything. The heavy door slammed shut behind them, and Lucy and Owen were left alone in the quiet hallway. Their gazes both landed on the gaping black hole of the empty elevator, and Lucy gave a little shrug.
I kind of thought itd be cooler on the outside, she said, reaching back to twist her long brown hair into a loose ponytail, which quickly unraveled again. Owen nodded. And maybe a little brighter. Well, at least we have our freedom, she joked, and this made him smile. Right, he said.
You know what they say about the inside of a cell. He shrugged.