My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Having never read any of Nicola Yoon’s other books I wasn’t sure what to expect from this but as I’d heard a lot about her previous book Everything, Everything I had high hopes.
YA contemporary stories can be a bit hit or miss for me but in this Yoon has created a story that’s intelligent, sweet, emotional and at the same time deep. It did take a little while to grow on me but by the end I was completely invested in the story and the characters and that ending was just incredible.
The story follows Daniel and Natasha, two teenagers who are at a turning point in their lives. Natasha is the logical science geek who believes in the practical and doesn’t have any time for dreams or love. Mostly I think due to a father who’s actions mean the family are being deported back to Jamaica at the end of the day. Something Natasha, who has her whole life mapped out, is not happy about and is frantically trying to find a way to avoid.
Daniel is her complete opposite, descended from Korean immigrants, his parents want him to study hard, go to the best school, become a doctor and marry a Korean girl. However Daniel is a dreamer, he believes in love at first sight, fate and freedom to chose his own path in life. He also wants to be a poet but on this particular day his parents are pushing him to go for an interview to get into Yale.
Complete strangers at the beginning, when their paths do cross Daniel is looking for a sign and believes that Natasha is it but, ever the realist, she takes a bit more convincing. He manages to persuade her to spend a bit of time with him so he can prove it was meant to be and make her fall in love with him using science (a quiz he finds on the internet).
What follows is a rollercoaster of a day for both of them as they travel all over New York together, Natasha trying to stay in the country and Daniel avoiding his interview while trying to make her believe in love. It’s a clash of cultures and a riot of emotions that really works.
I will admit that at the start I wasn’t so sure about this story. The style of the book is definitely unusual being told from the pov of both Natasha and Daniel over the course of the day but with little interludes scattered throughout that tell the story of some of the secondary characters in the book, random scientific facts and cultural histories. In the beginning I found these interludes a bit annoying as it felt like you were just getting somewhere in the story and there were pages on the Rastafari or the history of naming in a particular culture which just put me off my stride and I have to confess led to some skimming.
I did however love the little interludes which gave you a history of the minor characters who pop up, like Irene the security guard or the train driver who has a religious epiphany. I also loved those sections explaining Natasha’s complicated relationship with her father.
What probably makes this book great however is Natasha and Daniel and the relationship between them. From their very first meeting, watching Natasha’s ex and his new girlfriend shoplifting while making out, they are the cutest, most mismatched couple. If I try to pick my favorite of the two I actually can’t. I love Natasha’s logic, determination and dismissive attitude to notions like fate and love and soul mates but I also love Daniel’s persistence, assurance and genuine belief in romance and following your dreams. It should be annoying, like Natasha I’m a bit of a cynic, but it’s not and somehow I think Yoon just about convinced me that two teenagers could find everlasting love in a day.
The writing itself is incredibly good. It’s one of those books where I found myself highlighting sentences and paragraphs on just about every single page I came to. As a fan of quotes, a book like this is my idea of heaven. The dialogue also works spectacularly well and somehow you can actually hear the accents of each of the characters.
This is a book that talks about racism, discrimination and different cultural beliefs in a really natural and intelligent way and it definitely raised a lot of issues that I had no idea about or had no idea how big a deal they were considered. I’m sure it’ll receive a lot of praise for the positive and non preachy way that it deals with diversity and that praise would be well deserved.
It’s definitely a book I’d recommend everyone read if you’re interested in diversity issues but mostly I’d recommend because of the writing and the wonderful relationship between Natasha and Daniel.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Blurb (from GoodReads)
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?