Jennifer E. Smith is one of those authors who can truly translate the experience of being a teenager authentically to the written word. Her newest novel, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, continues proving that and tells a story that everyone can relate to on some level.
Leaving for college is both an exciting and terrifying time. Even more so if you’re in a relationship where you’re unsure what your next step should be. This is the situation that Clare and Aidan are facing in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. It’s the night before both go their separate ways, literally, to college: Clare to Dartmouth and Aidan to UCLA. They’ve been together for a good chunk of high school and as their last night looms ahead of them, they know they need to make a decision about if they’re going to stay together or not.
I went into this book expecting what one might think of as the “typical” plot and outcome for a story like this. Jennifer E. Smith managed to surprise me multiple times while I was reading, which I really appreciated. At the same time, the arc of their relationship is realistic and one that readers can both understand and be happy with.
Going back to Smith’s ability to capture teenagers so well, Clare and Aidan, as well as the supporting characters, are all distinct and realistic. Clare is the kind of person who needs to have everything planned and laid out perfectly so she knows what to expect. In her life, everything goes according to plan. Naturally, the turmoil that comes with leaving for college is stressing her out. Aidan on the other hand is more easy-going. He’s an athlete, a lacrosse player, which means he has to be able to go with the flow. Their personalities, while different, balance each other well and make their decision that much harder. As we learn throughout the book, neither one is perfect: Clare has been so self-absorbed that she’s missed a problem her best friend Stella is dealing with and Aidan just might have some secrets he’s been keeping too, but the flaws make them real. If they were perfect, it wouldn’t be realistic.
They spend their last night together going on trips to places that have been important to them or that played a role in their relationship, kind of like a scavenger hunt. It turns into a night of growth, mistakes, friendship, and love. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between also touches on some deeper topics, ranging from family expectations to the unpredictability of the future. This is a great example of how a contemporary novel doesn’t have to be a “light and fluffy” read. The characters aren’t perfect and neither are their lives. Over the course of just one night so many of those things, those flaws that make us human, are touched upon. It’s still a story of first love and “what do we do now?” but it’s also so much more than that.
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between is a fun and heartwarming book that conveys so many universal experiences. As a reader, you quickly become invested in Clare and Aidan’s story. You want the best for them and Smith delivers an ending that should satisfy her readers while not being the predictable, easy way out. Fans of Smith’s other books will enjoy this one and I definitely recommend it.
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’ll 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 will lead them to friends and family, 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?