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?*
It was so exciting to read another book by Nicola Yoon, aka the sweetest person on earth! I’m not sure if I agree with all of the philosophical writings on love and fate that she put forth in this book, but I sure wish that I did. Even though Natasha comes across to others, deliberately, as a cynic or a realist, she believes more in dreams than she would like to admit to herself. The transformative power of love in this novel is incredible; Natasha is able to tap into the more emotional and less realistic aspects of herself with the help of Daniel, who himself is a poet. In the course of just one day, he helps her find who she was as a child again, before she became disillusioned by her father’s failures and sadness.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the inclusion of in-between chapters. I went into it expecting to find chapters by Daniel and Natasha, but there were so many others included as well. We get the characters who seem to be just in the periphery of Daniel & Natasha’s story, but Nicola reminds us that these extras are the protagonists of their own lives. Readers get a glimpse into the troubles and backgrounds of these peoples’ lives, expanding the realm of our empathy. I know that for me personally, this will give me pause the next time I’m in the city, brushing through crowds of people.
The reflections on culture and etymology are beautiful. Readers come away with a novice understanding of Korean and Jamaican culture, but more than that, they come away with an understanding of immigrants. Nicola expertly portrays feelings of inadequacy and of a sort of identity crisis that arises when a person considers themselves a part of two entirely different countries and cultures. The strains these crises have on families, particularly when parents are afraid of their children losing the markers of someone from the parents’ home country, are illustrated heartbreakingly, but I would imagine also accurately.
The fact that this whole story was told within one day (with the exception of the epilogue) really helped pull me along and kept the action moving quickly. It somehow helped add to the suspense of whether or not Natasha and her family would be deported because the reader can almost feel an invisible clock ticking down to the time the flight is scheduled to leave.
Overall, this is another brilliant and emotional novel from a wonderful writer. I think it’s an important read for adults as well as young adults!
*The cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.