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?
The Characters. The way this book is written, we get to meet and learn about a lot of characters, including the supporting ones. But I’m not going to really get into all of that here, just a few, mostly the two lead characters.
Natasha Kingsley. She is Jamaican-American, and her family is being deported for being illegal immigrants. She is trying to figure out how to stop that from happening. She ends up meeting Daniel by chance. Natasha comes off as cynical, she really loves science and believes everything should be able to be explained by science. She is a bit brash, likes honesty and says what she wants when she thinks it. She has a determined personality and doesn’t believe in fate.
I quite liked Natasha. I thought she was a very realistic teenager in how she thinks, how she reacts to things considering how she’s grown up. I loved the fact that she was black with a large afro and that she carried herself confidently and that she was extremely smart and interested in science. There were times when I wish she wasn’t so… cynical about life and hope etc but I thought that was kind of realistic for what was happening and how her life had been.
Daniel Jae Ho Bae. He was my favorite. Korean-American, he and his older brother were born in America but his parents are immigrants from South Korea and his father especially is steeped in doing what’s best, not doing what they want. He wants to be a poet but his parents want him to go to Yale, become a doctor, marry a Korean girl and all of that. While he wants to do his own thing, he doesn’t know what that is. He happens to meet Natasha by seeing her dancing across the street in New York City and a series of events allows him to actually meet her.
I like Daniel a lot, like I said he was my favorite. I like guys who are romantic without being “too much”. I like the fact that it was him who fell first and that he was intelligent enough to talk to her, to let her know he wanted to know what she knew. He was quite the charmer and he seemed like if he was real, he would be really interesting to talk to, I’d think I’d like him. Plus, the Noraebang (karaoke) scene was the best.
The relationships. A big part of this novel is how Daniel and Natasha interact with other people, as well as each other. Due to the way the novel is written, we are able to see a bit more into some of these character’s backstories, which helps humanize them in a way they might not be through what is thought and said by Daniel and Natasha. It’s great.
Daniel and Charlie. Charlie is Daniel’s older brother and he’s a major douche nozzle. We learn from Daniel the moment when they started to drift apart and they basically have an antagonistic relationship moving forward. Charlie seems to hate Daniel but I don’t think Daniel necessarily hates Charlie, it’s just that he doesn’t get why his brother seems to dislike him so much and Daniel had to learn how to stand up to him.
Daniel and his parents. Definitely an interesting dynamic. His mother is like a mother, a bit nagging but loving. The tone of Daniel’s day really starts because his mother tells him something about his brother than Charlie overhears, but we really don’t spend that much time with her. When we meet his father, it’s at their shop and his father discovers that Daniel is with a black girl and he basically tells him “no” and that he needs to stick to the plan. It’s quite interesting.
Natasha and her father. We do meet her mom and brother but it’s really the relationship with her father that is most prominent and interesting. She is upset with him, it’s his fault they’re being deported, she hates him because of something she overheard him say to his wife and she hasn’t said a word to him about it. But we learn a lot about him through her eyes, as well as from his backstory tidbits we learn throughout the novel
Natasha and Daniel. Obviously, being the main center of the story… they just work.
The Style of Writing. The way the novel is written is very different. The story is told in present tense in Daniel and Natasha’s point of view, it switches back and forth between the two. Sometimes it’s a few pages of a chapter and other times, it’s just a page or two. It also includes backstories of other characters they have come into contact with as well as minor histories of things such as: the Black Hair Care business, fate etc. I quite liked it. It makes for easy read and it helps to understand side characters because even if they are minor, they all have reasons to be involved with the story.
The Story/Romance. It’s a romance, but it’s a tentative one. The characters have to progress into it. Natasha is so cynical that she doesn’t believe in love the way that Daniel does, who is a romantic. They really do spend the day getting to know each other, learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it was natural, the way young adults would. I thought Nicola Yoon handled their personal problems well, their inner voices, their struggles and all of that built into what they grow into.
Starts off slow. It did take me a moment to get into this book. I normally don’t like reading books told from different points of views. Sometimes it’s not done well and it’s annoying. That didn’t bother me here, it was just that it took a moment to get started. Once the day actually begins with Daniel and Natasha being away from home… it starts to pick up.
Not for everyone. This is the kind of book I would think is not for everyone. I mean, no book is, but definitely noticeable here. I think if the characters and the writing didn’t sweep me up, I might have disliked it. If you’re not into romance, don’t read it. If you don’t like it when characters doubt where things could go… then don’t read it. Personally, I do think this book could change your perspective on that but just saying.
Overall, I loved this book. I don’t think I’ve loved a book like this in a long time. One that featured non-white leads, written by a black woman and that didn’t have some fantasy element to it. I like adventure/fantasy type books and I loved this book and it had none of that. I loved the characters, I loved the way they interacted with each other. Normally, I’m wary of young adult books because the dialogue could sound older than what it is but I didn’t think that here, and the times where I might have, it wasn’t jarring. I loved their romantic progression, it wasn’t forced. The ending tore me up inside and was filled with hope. I cried. If a book can make me cry and no one died… well done.
Rating: 4.7o out of 5 stars.
Also by Nicola Yoon: Everything, Everything.