I’m currently doing very poorly at posting reviews, I’m so sorry. I really have zero excuse for my lack of posts other than I’ve been very lazy and almost all motivation to post a review is lost. And that is barely an excuse. This winter has taken hold of me like hibernation takes hold of a bear. Also, anxiety and depression, but mostly the cold winter. But I want to do better. I really, really do. I find what really helps me put my thoughts in order after finishing a book, is writing about it. And I’ll never grow as a reviewer if I don’t you know, review.
HOWEVER, I have emerged from my cocoon of comfy blankets, tea, and junk food to tell you about this book I just read. It’s by the lovely and talented Nicola Yoon, author of the YA hit and soon to be released film, ‘Everything, Everything’. This is her second novel and IT. WAS. AMAZING.
This story is about a girl, a boy, and the universe. It takes place throughout the duration of one day. The chapters alternate between Natasha, Daniel, and the various people they interact and cross paths with in 12 hours.
Natasha is an undocumented Jamaican immigrant, and today is her last day in America. Her family is being deported this very night. Natasha sets out to stop her family from being deported and makes an appointment with an immigration lawyer to find out if they can do just that. Natasha is also a realist. She doesn’t believe in love and she doesn’t believe in fate. She also doesn’t believe she would ever meet and fall in love with a boy she just met in a matter of hours in a New York city record shop, and yet…
Daniel is a Korean-American boy who wants to make his immigrant parents proud and set out on the path they have laid out for his future. That path is to become a Doctor. Daniel’s always been the best son and a straight A student. Unlike his older brother, Charlie, a Harvard drop-out. Daniel wants to make his parents happy, but he also wants to be his own person and follow his own arrow. He would rather write poetry and see where the wind takes him. Today Daniel has a meeting with a former graduate of the second most prestigious Ivy League University in the country, Yale. Unlike Natasha, Daniel believes in fate. He also believes in love. So when Daniel sees a girl wearing giant headphones and dancing in the middle of a New York City crosswalk, he just has to know what song is playing through her ears that is making her look and act, like she has no care in the world.
I would be lying if I said the cover for this book wasn’t the first thing that attracted me to it. The premise was the second thing that attracted me to this story. I was wary about the idea of story centering on two teens falling in love in the course of one day. I thought, “If this doesn’t sum up insta love, then I don’t know what does!” But actually, this is so, so far from that.
I loved the switch of points of view between each character in every chapter. For me it helps me gain more interest in the story and the characters. With each chapter you know it’s going to be told from a different character’s point of view and if done correctly, each character has their own voice where you don’t have to stop and think, “Wait is this chapter from *insert character’s name here*’s point of view, or is it *insert other character’s name here*’s point of view?” Nicola Yoon does not do that. She has a way with switching points of view that helps the reader settle in and just enjoy the story, without confusion.
I loved Natasha because she was a realist. She tells it like it is and she’s such a smart, strong, and level-headed character. She is confident and outspoken. I connected a great deal with Natasha’s views on love. For me, on the outside, I try my best to show my cynicism in regards to love the way that Natasha truly believes that love doesn’t exist. For her, love is merely a convenience for people. Daniel spends most of the story trying to convince her that she’s mistaken. However, unlike Natasha, I found that my beliefs on love truly reflected Daniel’s views on love. I wanted so badly to be like, “Yes, Natasha, you’re right. I agree with you 100%!” On love, Daniel says: “It exists whether you believe in it or not. You say it’s just words on paper, but you have to admit those people are feeling something.” Natasha counters, saying: “Something temporary and not at all measurable. People just want to believe. Otherwise they would have to admit that life is just a random series of good and bad things that happen until the day you die.” Daniel believes in love at first sight and wants to convince Natasha that it exists and it is real and he can make her fall in love with him, scientifically.
I loved Daniel because he was honest. He was very much unapologetically himself. Natasha bagged on him for being a romantic and wearing his heart on his sleeve and liking poetry, but unlike a lot of guys out there, Daniel didn’t like poetry to “get girls” or because it “made him likable”. Daniel liked poetry because he resonated with it just like music and science resonates with Natasha. Poetry and music and science are some of the driving forces behind these characters. I loved that Daniel wasn’t cocky. He was confident, but wasn’t afraid to admit that he is lost and unsure about his future. He doesn’t want to be what his parent’s want him to be. He wants to please them, because his brother never could, but he wants to have a sense of self. Poetry helps him do that. We also see that Natasha is unsure about her and her family’s future too. She wants desperately to believe that Daniel can be a part of that, but she wants to face reality now, before she falls in too deep with Daniel.
The great thing about this story is that we not only get perspectives from both Daniel and Natasha, but we get the perspectives of their family members as well. We learn that Natasha’s father, Samuel, came to America two years before Natasha arrived with her mother and brother, to become an actor. He had a dream and he doesn’t want to let it go. We also learn that Daniel’s brother, Charlie, is an ass and is ashamed by his Korean heritage. Daniel’s parent’s want their sons to be successful and wealthy and have the things that they did not. They know what’s best for them. But what if Daniel wants to discover what’s best for himself? Daniel is constantly at a cross between being Korean and being American. He worries he isn’t enough of both.
There were also a few chapters told in the perspective of the universe, a security guard named Irene, who we discover is connected to Natasha and Daniel than we are first led to believe, an attorney. After finishing this you’ll realize how the random, side characters that Natasha and Daniel come across whether by chance, accident, or even on purpose, throughout the story, complete it and pull it all together.
I enjoyed the diversity in this book. There’s even a brief chapter on the history of African-American hair that is very enlightening, especially if you want to educate yourself on the importance of diversity and identity amidst different cultures. And what makes this story even more realistic is that it centers on two complete strangers, both from different countries and backgrounds, living in one of the biggest and most diverse and populated cities in the world, and yet by a chance they find each other and fall in love. Love takes people by surprise. It shows that love is meant for everyone who wants to believe in it and give it a chance.
The ending is what made the story for me. I’m still thinking about it. It’s one of those endings where it’s so crazy and almost out of this world, yet you can totally see it happening in real life, because it’s not the kind of crazy and out of this world where you think, “Yeah! In what far off reality is this even possible?” This story has this certain magic, that’s the only way I can describe the feeling I had while reading it. Magic. It was magic because even though it can be so far from reality, it can also not be further from fantasy. For me the ending summed up a lot of what this book is about: chance, fate, and love. We don’t realize that each of our lives, regardless of the hardships and the difficult choices we are facing, how much they can impact someone else. Whether it’s a person we see on a daily basis, or someone we just met, or one word, sentence, song, poem, touch, what have you, can impact so much.
This story works because although you go into it thinking this is going to be all butterflies and rainbows and rom-com-y, you leave it thinking the complete opposite. This story has the ability to turn a cynic into a romantic.
A solid 5/5 stars. If I had to choose between both of her novels this one is my favorite, hands down.
Favorite Chapters: Daniel pg 271, Eyes pg 280, Epilogue pg 341
“No one can put a price on losing everything. And another thing: all your future histories can be destroyed in a single moment”
“But I have a strange and happy feeling that I quite can’t describe. It’s like knowing all the words to a song but still finding them beautiful a surprising.”
“But the poetic heart is not to be trusted. It is fickle and will lead you astray. It will tell you that all you need is love and dreams. It will say nothing about food and water and shelter and money. It will tell you that this person, the one right in front of you, the one who caught your eye for whatever reason, is the One. and he is. And she is. The One-for right now, until his heart or her heart decides on someone else or something else. The poetic heart is not to be trusted with long-term decision-making. I know all these things. I know them the way I know that Polaris, the North Star, is not actually the brightest star in the sky-it’s the fiftieth.”
“I know there’s no such thing as meant-to-be, and yet here I am wondering if maybe I’ve been wrong.”
“Observable fact: I don’t believe in magic. Observable fact: We are magic.”
“We’re kindling amid lighting strikes. A lit match and dry wood. Fire Danger signs and a forest waiting to be burned.”
“Life is just a series of dumb decisions and indecisions and coincidences that we choose to ascribe meaning to.”
“Touching him is order and chaos, like being assembled and disassembled at the same time.”
“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”
“All of which isn’t to say that Jeremy Fitzgerald did the right thing or the wrong thing. It’s only to say this: love always changes everything.