This book was surprisingly bittersweet–definitely more than the fluffy contemporary read I took it for.
On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?
Looking back on the premise of this book, it shouldn’t have been surprising that this book tugged at my heart-strings. I had assumed that it would be a lighthearted contemporary story, but it ended up being melancholy throughout and even brutally sad at times. That’s not to say that it isn’t an overall positive story–or that it doesn’t have its cute moments, which it does–I was just surprised.
Clare and Aidan have been together for nearly two years by the time they leave for college–Aidan heading for the west coast and Clare for the east coast. They are the ultimate high school couple–never apart, head-over-heels for each other–and neither of them wants to break up, but they also don’t want to ruin their relationship with long-distance.
Though the plot has a simple premise, it allowed for a complicated story. There were lots of flashbacks–effortlessly woven into the narrative–that gave the reader a clear sense of Clare and Aidan’s relationship. The “scavenger hunt” that Clare takes Aidan on brings other characters into the plot and ensures that the story is more than a pragmatic conversation between the two characters. I appreciated the emphasis Jennifer E. Smith put on showcasing the different stresses teens face–parental pressures, strained friendships, and of course, the massive change that is leaving for college.
Even so, this book ends up being 90% focused on Clare and Aidan’s relationship. I was expecting this, so it wasn’t exactly disappointing, but I did feel like the plot was missing something at times to make it more complex. Yes, friendship and parental issues were worked into the plot, but they always seemed to have easy resolutions to “get out of the way” of the main plot.
The characterization of Clare and Aidan was weak, in my opinion. Both of them remained fairly one-dimensional throughout the story. There was a lot of “telling” instead of “showing” as to both of their personalities–Clare being the pragmatic, controlling type, with Aidan being more laid-back and impulsive. For a book that was inherently character-based, I wish that Clare and Aidan had broken the “YA love interest” mold more.
The ending of this book surprised me. Up until the last pages, I wasn’t sure what would happen, and I was extremely emotionally stricken over which option they should choose. On one hand, going to college with a long-distance SO sounds pretty miserable, but on the other hand, they were an adorable couple, something that had been drilled into me by the book’s end. Trying to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that I loved the ending, and that it was exactly what the book needed.
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between was filled with simple but important messages for teens. As a junior starting to think about college, this book was a rude awakening: I hadn’t really considered how emotional leaving for college was going to be. The writing style was just poetic enough to give the story a contemplative feeling, and though the plot had its melodramatic moments, for the most part, it felt realistic.
I would recommend this book to fans of bittersweet and romance-based contemporary books, especially for teens who are about to leave for college.