Nicola Yoon has quickly become one of my favorite authors. It’s a combination of her beautiful and unique writing, lovable characters, diversity, different and interesting plot lines, and her talent at making me cry. Really, I just cannot find a fault with her books, especially this one. Yes, there’s insta-love like crazy in here. But the way she writes it makes it feel like it’s just another crazy coincidental event, where everything in the universe lined up to make it happen. Just like Natasha and Daniel discover, there’s magic and disbelief in everything from poetry to science to love. And so I think the insta-love is just a way to show the everyday magics that happen in life, the everyday chain of events that can just lead something to be so right but also so wrong at the same time. And it shows not to underestimate the power of the universe.
“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 one day you die.”
I don’t usually like to do this, but I’m going to copy and paste the back of the book description. Because it was actually the way it was worded that made me want to pick it up, not necessarily the plot itself.
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?
Do you know what part it was that caught my attention? It was the Universe piping in. It was something so different, so the the Universe have an active role in a story and be mentioned, that I had to pick it up. Before that, I thought, meh, this seems good but just like every other cheesy love story. But then I read that part, and I was like, wow. This might actually say something. Because as my English teacher says, Good writing says something new. And this book certainly did.
I have to say, being a hopeless romantic and dreamer myself, I thought Natasha’s character would bug me more than she did. Whenever people tell me they don’t believe in love, or fate, but only numbers and facts, I wonder how they see any, well, wonder in the world. How the world can seem beautiful if they think that everything has to be perfectly observable and factual to be true? But Yoon wrote Natasha’s character so well that she didn’t annoy me. I saw that she also saw magic in the world, even if she didn’t know it. When she talked about stars, and the solar system, she saw magic in the way the world was created and the way atoms can come together and form objects and beings. She saw magic in how creatures can evolve to be who we know them as today, and how in the future they can evolve to be something completely different than what we think of them now. So even though from the description it sounds like Natasha and Daniel would be too different to work, they both saw magic in life. And while Daniel saw magic in words and love and other abstract concepts, Natasha saw magic in science. But they weren’t has different as they appeared.
“Dark matter is love. It’s the attracting force.”
This book is first and foremost a love story. It’s a love story that explores other topics such as heritage (yay for two diverse main characters), family relationships, and fate, but it is a love story. Daniel and Natasha meet in a record store (after Daniel follows her there because a crazy train conductor told him to look for A Sign), and Daniel saves her life at a busy crosswalk. From there, he basically dares her to try to fall in love with him. Scientifically. I actually knew the article Daniel was referencing when he told Natasha scientists brewed love in a lab between two people, so that was an added bonus in the story. From there, they journey through NYC together in one day and fall in love. And their love together was just so sweet. Yoon does such a good job of creating characters with true chemistry, but also creating characters with intimacy. Daniel and Natasha disagreed, sure. But they had chemistry and wit and the ability to engage in intellectual discussions with each other without disrespecting each other, which I think is so important. And they understood each other on some level. Natasha was born in Jamaica but travelled to the US illegally and views herself as American. Daniel was born in America but embraces his Korean culture. Both understand what it’s like to be a mixed sort of heritage, to blend both American customs and foreign customs into their own unique culture. And both understand what it’s like to have parents that just don’t understand them (and not in that teenage angst way. In a real, my parents don’t know who I am or what I want type of way).
“Who are we if not a product of our parents and their histories?”
Speaking of family, I thought both the family dynamics were really interesting. This book didn’t have stellar family relationships, but I think it showed how sometimes parents can be so obsessed with THEIR pasts and THEIR dreams that they forget about their children’s. And sometimes they might make mistakes, but everything they do is for their children. Daniel’s family immigrated from South Korea, where they were poor, so they have pushed their children all their lives to get good grades in class, go to Harvard or Yale, and become a doctor. They want their children to grow up with better lives than they had, but they forget that being a doctor may not be their sons’ dreams (it wasn’t for Daniel). Also, Daniel’s older brother is a legitimate a-hole. Not even a mean-person-with-a-secretly-good-heart person. He is just hateful, spiteful, and malicious towards everyone he meets and only does a handful of good things. Natasha’s family is also interesting. Her whole family immigrated to the US from Jamaica, except her little brother who was born in America. Her dad has “big dreams” of being an actor, yet hasn’t found any gigs, which frustrates his wife. He starts to resent his family in a way because he feels like they held him back from getting his one big break. His DUI revealed that they were illegal immigrants, and they are being deported, which also adds tension to the family, because Natasha is blaming her father. However, I feel like both stories, even though the parent relationships aren’t great in the beginning, work themselves out as both the parents and the kids learn to compromise and listen to each other.
“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”
And wow, this is a really long review and sorry for that, but I just really loved this book. It was more than I thought it could be, and it leaves you with things to think about. I love how it isn’t only told from Natasha and Daniel’s POVs, but other random POVs as well. It’s told from security guards, lawyers, and the Universe’s as well. Also, Yoon adds histories of certain things in the story. That was really vague but like she has a history of African American hair to somehow highlight the importance of this seemingly insignificant thing. All these go towards her greater theme of how every small, insignificant seeming action leads you on a path towards a destination, and how everything, no matter how small, has a purpose in who you are right now and where you are. I just don’t know if any amount of words (even 1368) can describe my love and awe for this book.
What do you think about this book? What role do you think the Universe plays in our daily life? What do you think about the epilogue?