March 11, 2019

Book Review: Field Notes on Love

Hugo might have just been dumped by his girlfriend Margaret Campbell, but that won’t stop him from taking the “last hurrah before college starts” trip they were supposed to go on together crossing the United States via train…. Except that the paperwork is booked in her name, nontransferable and no exceptions. The solution to his problem arrives in the form of Mae, an aspiring filmmaker who shares Margaret’s name and wants to expand her horizons a little. As the two of them travel together and get to know each other, they just might discover this trip will bring them more than they bargained for.

I never expected to fall head over heels in love with Field Notes on Love, but here we are, now mostly recovered from the crying fest that ensued after turning the very last page. Anyway, the three things I loved most about Field Notes on Love are:

  • The cross-country train journey (and the cities they visited) – I was immediately raring to book a cross-country train trip of my own after reading this novel. I’ve always enjoyed traveling by train, and the idea of going across the entire country using that method of transport is fascinating! It was also cool to have Mae and Hugo explore a little bit of the cities they stopped at (though I could have gone for more details and more time at each, though that’s obviously not how their trip was set-up).
  • Hugo’s personal journey – I found Hugo’s half of the story instantly relatable from the start. He’s struggling with making sense of his identity outside of his family, including learning how to be apart from them without cutting them out completely. He’s also figuring out what he wants to do with his life, specifically in terms of university. And boy, but are these two specific situations similar to my own experiences back in the day. Smith portrays this in a way that feels both specific to Hugo but universal in emotional scope, which certainly lent to my emotional investment of the outcome of his story. 
  • Mae’s personal journey (including the “field notes on love”) – I didn’t really expect to fall in love with Mae’s story. She’s a tough nut to crack at the start, careful and cautious, with all vulnerability walled off for protection. It takes some time before it happens but witnessing the moment she opens up and the resulting domino effect (especially on her film work) is something really special. Personally, I found her experience extremely relatable and cathartic, especially as someone who used to also be very guarded with her feelings.

To put it simply, Field Notes on Love blew me away. I had been eagerly anticipating this new book from Jennifer E. Smith since I’d first caught wind of it, but I didn’t expect to find this story so emotionally resonant. It was an unexpectedly intense reading experience, but in the best way, and I’m so excited for everyone else to read this book too!

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Delacorte Press | Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Source: e-galley downloaded from NetGalley (Thank you!)


  1. SAME! Totally agreed. I think it would have been nice to see more experiences in each city/stop too - I mentioned that in my review as well. The book was fairly short so I feel like even just a few more pages in each location would have been awesome :)

  2. This sounds so cute! I'm definitely going to have to check it out!


Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)