“Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?”

For Hadley Sullivan, heading from JFK to London as a reluctant bridesmaid in her father’s (second) wedding to a woman she hasn’t met, four minutes means she misses her flight. It means that she may not make it to the ceremony in time. Most of all, it means being rebooked on the next flight and sitting next to a boy named Oliver, a Yale freshman headed home to London.

Jennifer E. Smith’s delightful new novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, takes place over a period of just 24 hours. And while the eventual outcome of the teens’ chance encounter is never in doubt, Smith’s insightful chronicling of Hadley’s emotional life brings a power and sensitivity to this story of first love.

Hadley is dreading the plane ride (she suffers from claustrophobia) and, even more, the wedding itself. She hasn’t recovered from her father’s abrupt departure, and doesn’t believe his story that he wasn’t looking for love when he became a visiting professor in England. And even though her mother has rebuilt her life and is seeing someone new, Hadley refuses to trust her mom’s recovery, or her philosophical view that things turned out for the best.

But then Hadley meets Oliver, and experiences “a kind of unfamiliar electricity at the nearness of him.” After the long night flight together, and an unexpected turn of events the next day in London, Hadley comes to new realizations about her family, and about love itself. “The idea that their paths might have just as easily not crossed leaves her breathless . . . and she can’t help marveling at the sheer randomness of it all.”

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