Reminiscent of the movie Little Miss Sunshine, the majority of One Plus One chronicles a mismatched group taking a three-day car trek from England to Scotland for a math Olympiad. The main characters, who each narrate chapters from their perspectives, are: Ed, a recently divorced financial guy facing insider trading charges; Jess, a single mom struggling to makes ends meet for her daughter and “sort of” son, Nicky, an angsty male teen who wears eyeliner, is the subject of intense bullying, and disappears into violent video games to escape; and Tanzie, a whip-smart grade school girl who wears thick glasses and way too many sequins to ever be cool. Finally, there is Norman, though he does no story telling, the family’s enormous loving mutt who spends most of his time drooling and farting.
Ed is begrudgingly driving the rag tag family in his fancy car as pay back to Jess for getting him home safely after he passed out drunk in the bar where she waitresses. The reason it takes them three days to get across a very small distance? Anything over 40 miles per hour in a car makes Tanzie violently sick.
More happens to this crowd in their days together than happens to most people in a lifetime. But being unbelievable made it no less compelling. As the unlikely, yet inevitable, love story unfolds between Jess and Ed, I found myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop on the relationship while simultaneously wondering if the crew would ever actually get to the math competition.
There are secondary characters (Jess and Ed’s exes and a very mean bully) and story lines that make the story even more complex but at the end of the day, One Plus One reads quickly and has you rooting for all of them, even (maybe especially) Norman. A great summer read when thinking too hard isn’t your priority.
Publisher: Penguin Books
Elizabeth's rating: 3.5 stars