FIELD NOTES ON LOVE: Sneaky Clean Charm & Not Juvenile


Written by: Jennifer E. Smith
Read by: Anthony Mark Barrow & Karissa Vacker
8 Hours and 23 Minutes
PRHA | Imprint: Listening Library (Audio)
Ages 12 and up
Release Date: March 05, 2019

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


The bestselling author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight returns with a meet-cute romance about Hugo and Mae, two teens who are thrown together on a cross-country train trip that will teach them about love, each other, and the futures they can build for themselves.

It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: traveling across America by train.

But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Nontransferable, no exceptions.

Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.

A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up to them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?


My Take Oblong Shaped

Hugo has a problem: his [less than thoughtful] girlfriend broke up with him and she booked everything for this train trip across the US where she’s about to attend college. She gives him the trip saying he should still take it. But she booked it all non-refundable  and non-transferable.  So, he gets an idea to find someone else with her name.

I seem to remember a story about this kind of situation in the news a few years ago.

This utterly charming, and charmingly narrated, novel is sweet, funny and sad.  These two teens are both perfect, as are their parents, but even the perfect can have issues. 

Hugo knows he wants, well, something, but he is not sure what it is other than to get away on his own and learn who he is. As a sextuplet, he is both moderately famous and one of a set. He longs for individuality/ Granted, he is a decent, polite, adventurous boy about to go to school on a full scholarship with his five siblings. 

Mae is wanting life experience because growing up with her two dads and an art gallery was not enough, I guess, to get her into film school at USC as a first-year student (entry is apparently normal for second-year students). 

What Mae’s friends all tell her though is that her work lacks intimacy; she doesn’t show herself in her work.  She is good, but she needs to open up.  What could be a more huge life experience than sharing a cross-country train berth with a guy you never met. The couple has a few adventures but it’s nothing scary like robbery or knives — that would scare them off the train.  It’s the people they meet that are so interesting. 

Hugo is black.  He does wonder about getting the side eye over his color when people think from the start that he and Mae are a couple. And there are a few times where it’s interesting.  But with two fathers Mae has had to deal with bigotry too. They both allow it to pass over them and don’t get confrontational.

And, of course they start to fall in love.  And what do two teens do when they are sharing a room and fall in love?  The story is kept clean.  Both know they have but a week to have this fling. 

Anthony Mark Barrow is particularly charming with his British accent and  I loved the character he voiced with his sweetness, his dilemma of not feeling like an individual in a sea of six and the guilty feelings he has for wanting to be on his own.  Karissa Vacker is usually fine with her narration, but once in a while Mae has a New Yawk accent.  Is it supposed to be funny? I don’t know, but I didn’t like it.  Mae is super self-possessed.  She has this difficulty with intimacy and I waited for it to be explained, but I don’t think it was.

I have to mention that these kids both have amazing parents: loving, open, forgiving, thoughtful, and aware of their own mistakes.  Maybe that’s what makes such great kids as well as a wonderful story and audiobook! 


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