The Distance from A to Z: A Book Review

Hello!

I apologize for my mini hiatus – it’s simply been one of those weeks! Fortunately, I’m home from school today due to a wet and heavy snowfall, allowing me a leisurely morning of reading Jenny Lawson’s memoir, Furiously Happy, watching a few episodes of Scandal {my sister and I, as you can likely guess, are hooked}, and finishing up this book review that has been sitting in my drafts. What’s up for your weekend? What have you been reading?

The Distance from A to ZTitle: The Distance from A to Z
Author: Natalie Blitt
Published: January 12th, 2016 by Epic Reads Impulse
Pages: 316
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Author / E-Book
Series: Nope! This is as adorable of a standalone as it gets.

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 exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

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 the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk. {Goodreads}

A love of reading and a love of traveling go hand in hand – that is to say, not the logistics of the trip, booking reservations and plotting daily schedules, but the experience, visiting cities and sights outside of your daily norm. Trips quench one’s thirst for knowledge or new adventures with ease, but when a lack of funds or shortage of time prevent you from voyaging any further than your home state, I think a good book has a similar effect. My own wanderlust has long been fueled by the settings of novels I’ve read, whether it’s the cross-county road trip in Amy or Roger’s Epic Detour or the European tour of The Conspiracy of Us. Natalie Blitt’s first publication, The Distance from A to Z, serves as yet another testament to that fact, creating a Francophile out of any reader with its immersive setting. Through it, Blitt proves herself an equal to established contemporary authors, and, more importantly, it has me excited for the books that remain in this year’s batch of debuts.

Unlike the rest of her baseball-obsessed family, Abby’s interest lie more in language than hitting a home run, so much so, in fact, that she jumps at the first opportunity she gets to enter a French-study program. Abby attends her first class, only to find herself face-to-face with sports again: this time, in the form of Zeke, her French study partner and avid athlete. Romantic contemporaries often get a bad rep – the common complaint is that they’re too light and all fluff – but The Distance from A to Z holds weight. Readers looking for nothing more than witty banter {some in French, no less} and cute kissing scenes will take pleasure in Abby and Zeke’s relationship, while those who want a more serious contemporary will appreciate the discussions on social anxiety and secrets.

What talent Blitt demonstrates in the plot appears in her characters as well. She crafts them all with a realistic eye, a fact illustrated no better than the interactions between them. Abby and Zeke’s relationship grows naturally, for example – taking a cue from Pride and Prejudice, they start as enemies only to find themselves feeling something more – as does the friendship between Abby and her roommate, Alice. These relations drip with an intensity that is unique to adolescents, and, better yet, they show that love comes in a multitude of forms. In addition, the characters’ passions are central to their development. Abby’s love of French is most prominent, as she quotes lines from the classic Amélie, describes French monuments in vivid detail, and translates from English into French before she even realizes she’s doing so, but Zeke’s appetite for sports and Alice’s enthusiasm for poetry are just as significant to the story.

Just as Abby often felt alienated from the rest of her family, however, so did I when it came to connecting with the characters. Perhaps it’s only a matter of the format I received it in or the slow pace at which I read the book, but I was never fully invested in Abby’s story, nor did I find a point in which I clicked with Zeke or Alice. This is not a discredit to their development, only an observation that I always felt as if I was observing the narrative from afar. Similarly, because the entire story takes place within a New Hampshire summer high school program, it was difficult for me to imagine Abby and Zeke outside of their French classroom. In other words, I couldn’t picture a future for them, as I believe Blitt wanted her audience to do. Nevertheless, the ability to connect with the narrator changes from reader to reader, so whereas I couldn’t relate to Abby, that’s not to say that the next reader will have the same problem.

There is a wedding saying that begins, “Something old, something new.” Britt applies that same philosophy here, taking what is known to work in the genre and adding her own signature elements: an intelligent protagonist who’s in the midst of growing up, as well as obsessed with French culture; a funny, if cocky, love interest, who happens to have an interesting hobby of his own; a supportive and caring friend, who has her own obstacles to defy. It’s in the same vein as Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith, but don’t be fooled: Blitt has made a name for herself. If anything, it’s a fun, fulfilling read for your next snowy afternoon – I say that, speaking from experience.

Have a terrific weekend! :)
B

Psst. If romantic contemporaries are your jam, here are a few more selections for you to try: Anna and the French Kiss, More Happy Than Not, Better Off Friends, and Just One Day.

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2 thoughts on “The Distance from A to Z: A Book Review

  1. […] The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt | “Readers looking for nothing more than witty banter {some in French, no less} and cute kissing scenes will take pleasure in Abby and Zeke’s relationship, while those who want a more serious contemporary will appreciate the discussions on social anxiety and secrets.” […]

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