The Distance From A to Z – Natalie Blitt – HarperCollins – Published 12 January 2016
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.
When The Distance Between A To Z was compared to Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally I have to admit to being skeptical. But I was wrong, totally wrong to doubt because the comparison works so well. Yes, this book is about a girl and a boy falling in love and about little things like baseball, and summer courses and the French language, but it manages to make these things into so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a light, easy young adult romance that leaves you with a sense of great importance.
Abby’s family are crazy about baseball. And I mean actually crazy, team paraphernalia, bumper stickers, car window flags crazy and all. And Abby is sick of it. So sick she’s moving several states over for a summer away from everything baseball to take a French language course.
Part of her summer course requirement is talking with her class partner Zeke in French. Cute baseball loving, complicated, hiding something Zeke. They are as different as A and Z, but there is a connection between them to which Abby is inexplicably drawn. This feels like a new adult crossed with a young adult novel. The setting is at a college, but Abby and Zeke are high school students at a summer program. The tone of the book retains its youth while also gaining some sophistication from being removed from a cliquey high school environment.
I really liked the relationship between Zeke and Abby. It’s the perfect mix of a cute, simple, young love story and a deep connecting friendship. It’s a lot of fun to read. As well as this romance there is also a great friendship between Abby and her roommate and all the complications of family and their impact on the characters’ lives.
As Abby spends most of her time reading, learning and speaking French, there is no shortage of it in the book. This is really well done, with enough French to feel authentic, but also a good balance between translations repeated before or after the French and just the words in English, with “he said in French” to make this book readable. There’s no need to be fluent in French yourself and you just might pick up a few phrases along the way.
Overall, a fun book in which to lose yourself.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
** The above quotes have been taken from an uncorrected advanced reader’s copy and may differ from the final published text.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: French culture and language, summer programs, love and romance, baseball, family, friendship.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f***, s*** and frequent use of the French word for s***. Sexual references and discussions.
Published: 12 January 2016 by HarperCollins, Epic Reads.