Stanley and Vera bond when they meet as teen contestants at the National Spelling Bee. Named rare co-winners, they see each other once a year when they return as former champs. They each understand the quirky upbringing the other has experienced, which may be why they decide to fake their own wedding so they can start over fresh. But will they know how to remain together once their friendship turns to something more?
Two Across by Jeff Bartsch is a story that looks at what happens when two highly intelligent but emotionally developing people get together. Once they create their scheme for a fake wedding, they get comfortable telling lies to all the people who are important to them. Stanley creates the most elaborate web, faking his college enrollment and helping students cheat to support himself. When the lies catch up to them, their relationship isn’t strong enough to hold them together. But they are not happy apart either. It’s only when they discover truths about their own personalities that they are ready to try being a couple again.
There’s a bit of mystery involved in the story too, as Stanley and Vera are both avid crossword solvers and creators. When they are apart, they send coded messages through crosswords they hope the other will discover. It’s an interesting concept that may interest readers in creating their own puzzles.
While I thought the pacing of the novel was a little slow, the story is sweet and there is much for mother-daughter book club readers with girls aged 15 and up to think about and discuss. The book delves into issues of truth, honesty, ethics, and commitment, all topics that mothers and their teen daughters will benefit from talking about.
The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.