Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie BlittThe Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Published by Epic Reads Impulse on January 12, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

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.

The tragic thing about The Distance from A to Z is that, in theory, this book is so completely a Christina book. It’s a fluffy contemporary novel set in an intensive foreign language program about a judgmental girl falling in love with a guy who is not her type, aka a jock. In reality, though, The Distance from A to Z really didn’t work for me; it was more like the disappointment from A to Z.

It definitely did not help that I just happened to read it right after Shuffle, Repeat, which has the same romantic arc but does everything better. Even so, I don’t think I would have liked this book much more even without that stark contrast.

I think that, ultimately, where this book fails for me is that I’m just not sold on the characterization. Like Shuffle, Repeat, it’s all about that character arc where the heroine learns that she’s been judging people too harshly and opens up to enjoy life more. Only in The Distance from A to Z, I’m really not convinced that this happens.

At the start, Abby’s very judgmental of baseball to the degree that mentioning anything baseball-related or wearing baseball tees or caps makes her swear or growl at people. At the end, she’s grudgingly willing to date a baseball player. She hasn’t learned anything, nor are any differences made to her strained relationship with her baseball-obsessed family.

The Distance from A to Z doesn’t even really sell why Abby hates baseball so much that she sat in her room and taught herself French. The closest the book comes to an explanation from why she went from baseball fanatic to baseball hater is that she felt her family put baseball above her, which doesn’t really make sense since for all of her childhood baseball was a thing the family did TOGETHER. There wasn’t anything that really explained how she got here emotionally, and it meant that anytime Abby went off about baseball, I didn’t sympathize at all, even though I’m not a sports person myself.

At the start of the novel, Abby slut shames other girls for being interested in her love interest. At some point in the middle, she’s shocked to wonder if she judged them too harshly when she realizes they’re at this program for economics. At the end, she’s back to slut-shaming them. This is not how character arcs are done.

Abby doesn’t hate all girls, though, because she instafriends hard on her roommate, Alice. I wish the book had been about Alice, who’s working on her poetry and her anxiety this summer. Though I like the idea of this friendship, I never felt it. Abby declares her love of Alice the moment Alice turns out to be a fellow introvert and they are besties for life from that moment. They never engaged in any of the banter I expect from good friends and didn’t really seem to have many shared interests. She showed up to things to help Alice with her anxiety, and Alice gave advice about Zeke, and that’s about it for them.

The romance with Zeke is similarly off. Abby is completely awful to Zeke the first few times they meet and Zeke seems to be having a thing with another girl there at the start, so I really don’t get why he was so persistent in pursuing Abby. They become friends sort of, but Abby only likes Zeke when they’re talking in French and hates him when he speaks in English. That’s not something they ever deal with either; they just only speak to each other in French pretty much.

One of the things that bothers me most about them is that very early on, she basically tells him that if he wants her to be nice to him, he needs to not wear any baseball shirts. HE BUYS A NEW WARDROBE FOR HER, which she helps select and fills with the nerd joke shirts she likes. It’s like he’s fucking Pygmalion, and it’s really just not healthy. They are in no way dating at this point; they’re just class partners. The worst thing is that at no point does Abby ever apologize for being the worst and tell him he can wear whatever he wants.

The kissing scenes and some of Zeke’s romantic speeches are pretty good, but I really never came around on this couple. Abby is generally awful to him, and, because most of their actual hang out time gets recapped rather than experienced as it happens, I really don’t see much of an actual bond. Way more telling than showing on these feelings. I give this couple less than a month once the program is over, considering that she only likes him if he doesn’t dress like himself and they live really far apart. I mean, obviously she’s hot enough he’s willing to overlook the bullshit when they’re together but I’m betting he gets sick of her really fast over the phone. Especially since she’s massively jealous and he’s a popular baseball player. She’s totally going to be accusing him of cheating constantly.

Aside from all of that, The Distance from A to Z has some generally clunky construction. Zeke and Abby are in an intensive college level French course, so obviously most of the actual talking in this book would really be in French. Blitt handles that fairly well most of the time, since Abby does seem the type to translate everything in her head immediately. However, there are sometimes sentences in French that are not translate or explained by the context. Sometimes I used Google Translate and sometimes I just moved on. Obviously, I have no idea if the French is good because I super do not speak it.

On top of that, lots of characters are introduced for one scene. The narration is like “oh look, it’s Mel and blah and blah,” but the reader has no fucking clue who these people are and really doesn’t need to know who the people are because they will never show up again. The secondary characters who do actually matter somewhat do not get arcs of their own. Alice makes progress with her anxiety and that’s about it. Gay best friend is just there to be supportive. Abby’s family only exists to love baseball and annoy her. There are so many completely wasted characters.

The Distance from A to Z will likely work for readers who can bond with Abby, but I mostly found it frustrating and would recommend Shuffle, Repeat for the romance arc. If you’re interested in the baseball/romance angle, I’d recommend Stealing Parker, Whatever Life Throws at You or Play On.

Favorite Quote:

It’s a problem because, as my grandmother used to say, the thing with justifiable homicide is that even if it’s justifiable, it’s still homicide.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif she's the worst parks

One response to “Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt”

  1. Strontium says:

    Why do authors have to hate on the Cubs?! ;.; the Cubs are actually good right now

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