Author: Natalie Blitt
Published: January 12 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.
Seventeen-year-old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.
That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to wear baseball caps and jerseys every day.
But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between who she is and who he is is worth the risk.
The Distance From A to Z is a book I read solely because of the good word of mouth building around it in the Twitter blogosphere. A few friends had read it and enjoyed it enough for me to reconsider my dismissal of it from when I went ARC-crazy in late 2015. However, while I can't fault friends for enjoying this more than I did, I found The Distance From A to Z to be a somewhat disappointing read. There are things I did end up liking, but this was not a particularly favorite read for me.
My issues began early, with Abby. Abby's reactions, to me, are silly. I'm sorry but she's 17 -- a 17 mature enough to go to college course for weeks; she is emotionally capable of disliking something without being an ass or judging others who do like the thing (like.. how I don't hate everyone who loves this book.....). Abby doesn't do this. Abby acts like a child and then expects everyone to not mention, love, or think about The Thing while around her. She may be 17, but she sometimes reads like a 10 year old. It was not a good first impression.
After the rough start, I did find several things in The Distance from A to Z to enjoy. The friendship between Alice and Abby is fantastic and one of the best parts of the novel. The author can definitely create chemistry in friendships and also in relationships. She can write the hell out of a kissing scene. I shipped the ship, even when the plotting was predictable (oh noes a big secret that Zeke won't tell! I bet that NEVER comes up!!1! Oh noes his shoulder hurts! I bet that has nothing to do with The Thing that Abby hates!!1! ) because the characters grew and evolved into more fully dimensional people together. I loved the use of French and how driven Abby was to achieve her goals. She is smart but she also works really, really hard for what she wants. That is commendable and realistic.
However, all the good will and momentum that the middle section of the book brought to life, the last 20% pretty much killed. Zeke attempts to talk to Abby about His Big Secret (oh noes!), only to have her directly shut him down because she doesn't want to hear it. Only later, Abby calls him a liar for not telling her... what she expressly told him NOT to tell her. I'm sorry, but that is bullshit. That is using contrived drama for the sake of narrative structure and I am not having it. It makes no sense except to inject a little more angst before the expected outcome. It was cheap and lazy and so, so predictable. It alone dropped the rating for this from 3.5/5 to 2.5/5.
I wanted to love this; and halfway through, I thought I could see this being a fun, easy read to rec for me to give to contemporary lovers. But lazy plotting, silly characters nixed that idea. I finished this book frustrated and that's the memory I will take with me when I look back at it. I may be the black sheep for this one but I am A-Okay with that.