Title: You Are Here
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 19th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
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Emma Healy has never fit in with the rest of her family. She's grown used to being the only ordinary one among her rather extraordinary parents and siblings. But when she finds a birth certificate for a twin brother she never knew she had, along with a death certificate dated just two days later, she feels like a part of her has been justified in never feeling quite whole. Suddenly it seems important to visit his grave, to set off in search of her missing half. When her next-door neighbor Peter Finnegan -- who has a quiet affinity for maps and a desperate wish to escape their small town -- ends up coming along for the ride, Emma thinks they can't possibly have anything in common. But as they head from upstate New York toward North Carolina, driving a beat-up and technically stolen car and picking up a stray dog along the way, they find themselves learning more and more about each other. Neither is exactly sure what they're looking for, but with each passing mile, each new day of this journey, they seem to be getting much closer to finding it.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First off, I love the cover for You Are Here! It's gorgeous, and it actually fits the story, for once! Everything about it is just so beautiful.
And Jennifer E. Smith's writing is just as beautiful. Her prose is gorgeous and vivid - it's what carries the novel, in my opinion. The descriptions of the places they go, as well as the portrayal of the characters' emotions, are spot-on. The author's style is luscious and descriptive and just so nice to read - even though I had some problems with this novel, the beautiful prose has ensured that I'll keep reading whatever Jennifer E. Smith writes.
The characters are good. They're all fully-developed, complex, and realistic. Peter is so sweet, and I loved his quirkiness. Emma is also a well-wirtten character with an interesting personality, but I couldn't really like her as a person, to be honest. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but something about her annoyed me - maybe it's the way she's always complaining and whining about her family, because, well, her family is awesome! I loved reading about each member of her family - they're all weird and different, but in the best way possible.
The plot is... well, there isn't much of a plot. You Are Here is very slow-paced, and nothing much happens. At times I liked the slow plot and how it allowed us to go deeper into the characters' emotions, but there were also times where I got kind of bored, and just wished something would happen. I'm usually a fan of slower books, but the pacing was too slow even for me - if you can't get through a slow book, this one definitely isn't for you.
I'm not quite sure what exactly bugged me about You Are Here, but something definitely did. Technically, You Are Here is an expertly done book, but personally, something about it didn't sit right with me. Maybe it's that it's too realistic - I know, that sounds like such a weird thing to criticize, but the more I think about it, the more I know that's what frustrated me. Generally, a book being realistic is a good thing, but I feel like You Are Here is too realistic, too close to real life - it doesn't make things better or worse or more exciting or just more, like books usually do. I didn't really like Emma, because she's a real person whose head we're living in, not just a character. And real people complain too much, even when we have it pretty good. Real people can't just be happy together, like I wanted Emma and Peter to be. And real life isn't as exciting as fiction usually is - maybe that's why the plot moves so slow. I don't know about you, but I've never had as much fun on a road trip as most YA characters seem to have - my road trips have always been closer to the one in You Are Here than to the ones in all those other, fun road trip books.
It still feels wrong to criticize that You Are Here is too realistic, and I don't want this to discourage you from giving the book a try - we definitely need books like this one, too. But to me, You Are Here read almost like an extended character study - there's not much to the plot, but we do get to know two characters very, very well. And even if it did feel too realistic to me to completely fall in love with this book, I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially because of Jennifer E. Smith's gorgeous writing.