Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, by Jennifer E. Smith, is set over a twelve hour period during which High School sweethearts, Clare and Aiden, must decide if they are to stay together or break up before they leave their small suburb of Chicago for separate colleges in distant states. As they drive around their old haunts, meeting up with friends and saying their goodbyes, they debate and argue the pros and cons of maintaining a long distance relationship when their personal horizons are about to expand and change.
Although I was drawn into the story I found it quite slow moving. The language jarred slightly, especially the continuous use of ‘I know’, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘you know’ in the narrative. I understand that the conversations were between young adults, and perhaps this is how some of them talk, but the repetition was a tic that affected the flow of the tale.
The characters were varied and believable. Aiden and Clare, along with their families, were nicely drawn as were their relationships with their closest friends, although I found it hard to believe that some of the cruelties inflicted with words would be easily forgiven. These were young people who had known each other for years; I would have expected more understanding and compassion.
The feelings of excitement and trepidation as the realisation that what they had worked towards for so long was about to happen were well evoked. I liked that Aiden was as upset at the prospect of leaving his best friend as he was about leaving his girlfriend, and that Clare had not understood this before. The scene where Stella called her out on her self-centredness was satisfying. Clare was making such a big deal of her decision when all around, her peers were dealing with their own emotional challenges.
The denouement worked well even if, in my view, the final pages could have been set after more time had passed.
This is a gentle story of endings and beginnings, of the bittersweet experiences of first love, and of the nervous anticipation that precedes even the most longed for milestones in the timeline of a life.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.