This book takes place over one very intense day. Natasha is a serious girl who loves science and music. Daniel is a romantic boy who loves poetry but works diligently to meet his parents high expectations. When they meet on the streets of New York City, love is destined, except for one catch: Natasha’s family is about to be deported. Can she stay in America? Can they somehow make it work? Is love really about fate or just a chemical reaction in the brain?
As Natasha and Daniel are telling their story, there are interludes from a third person perspective that give more information about various details and background about people in their lives.
This review is a case of me being impatient. The library has this book but the hold list was so long that I bought it instead. Honestly, I nearly bought Everything, Everything but knew from reading reviews that I would probably regret that. Although the book was fine, I do wish I had just waited.
My initial impression was that this book was half love story and half about the deportation. Natasha’s impending deadline was very present, but the love story was definitely the focus of the book. I also thought that it was written in Natasha’s voice. Two viewpoints alternating often throws me, and to add the third person interludes really surprised me. They were well written, but I just didn’t get as into it as I would a book with one narrator.
The way in which Daniel was introduced caused me to not like him initially, as he mainly spent all his time complaining about his brother Charlie (about whom so much has been said elsewhere, I’m not going to discuss him much in this review).
Spoilers (but mild ones)
Most of the reviews I read prior to buying this book did not mention Irene. Perhaps it’s just me, but I knew instantly upon reading her first scene what an important character she was and kept waiting for more of her story. I think if some of the other characters (like the bus conductor) were named it would have drawn less attention to her.
I’m sure it was a major part of the reason many people loved the book, but I found the ending to be very unrealistic, and it cemented this book in the “romance” category for me.
I greatly appreciated that they didn’t have sex. Some teens may feel that they even went too far for a first meeting, but the depiction of teenage lust (on both sides) was very reasonable. There was some swearing but it was contextually acceptable and not gratuitous. While I would not give this book to my middle school students, it is definitely appropriate for high school students and beyond.
Probably my favorite part of this book was the cultural details and discussions the characters have about race, such as how Daniel (born in America) is identified as Korean while Jamaican Natasha is often identified as American, or why so many black hair care stores are owned by Koreans. These discussions feel normal to me at this point in my life but will bring new ideas to the minds of many white readers. They also are a great role model for all teens of how to have thoughtful conversations about race and avoid racism without trying to be “color blind”.
Some of the dialogue with the parents was written in broken English. I didn’t have any problem with it – the author is Jamaican so the dialect felt authentic rather than forced, the meaning was clear, and the novel still flowed.
I also loved that Natasha was so science-minded and dropping in constant tidbits about physics and astronomy (including the one where the title came from) and examining the science behind love and attraction. It makes me so happy when a black girl is talking about the wonders of science! (Mae Jemison <3)
This book is very topical today as America engages in a debate about children whose parents illegally entered the United States and raised them here. What rights do those children have? I definitely could see this book being a starting point for many discussions about immigration, culture, love, science, and more. That is a lot packed into a teen romance!
Overall, this book reminded me of a movie I saw once called Crash. The main focus on this book is a teenage romance rather than a car crash, but otherwise there were many similarities – intersecting lives, coincidences that feel like destiny, pithy commentary on race relations in America.
While I felt kind of blase about this one after all the hype, I think many teens will enjoy it. Certainly it was refreshing to read an interracial romance between a sexy Asian boy and a Jamaican immigrant girl, and I’m glad it became a bestseller so that teens will pick it up and diversify their reading a little.
As for adults, I think those who already read romances or otherwise find an aspect of this book intriguing will enjoy it. If I had come across this as a random pick, I would probably have loved it. Unfortunately there were too many elements that weren’t as expected. I’m going to ponder this and maybe reread later.