Firstly, the book cover alone makes this book amazing. Look how they made it!
Secondly, I was a little disappointed with Everything, Everything and went into this book thinking that it would be sort of the same quality. Girl with some weird thing wrong meets boy with some issues, they fall in love super quickly and then live happily ever after. Well, the only similarity is that girl meets boy and they fall in love super quickly – or at least one of them does. Prepare to be blown away by this book – it’s a-maz-ing!!
At the beginning of the book we meet Natasha. We learn that she lives in New York with her mum and dad and brother, Peter. She was born in Jamaica and her dad came to the US to make it as an actor. She and her mum follow him over when she is 6 and they outstay their visa. She is now in the position where, after her dad has been arrested for Drink Driving and told the police that he is living in the US illegally, they are 12 hours away from being deported.
Daniel is of Korean origin and lives with his mum and dad and older brother Charlie. Charlie has a big chip on his shoulder and hates Daniel (this is never fully explained, although Natasha has her own theory). Charlie has just been sent home from Harvard after one term. Daniel’s dad owns a black hair care product shop in New York (apparently it’s a thing for Korean people to own black hair care shops New York). Daniel is on his way to get his hair cut before he has an interview for a place at Yale to study medicine. Unfortunately he doesn’t want to be a doctor, he wants to be a poet.
Natasha and Daniel meet through a series of events and Daniel falls in love at first sight. Natasha has a lot on her mind and is hoping that she can persuade an attorney to help overturn her case. She is also a scientist and doesn’t believe in the romantic notion of love at first sight. Daniel tries to change her mind through a series of questions and some time spent together in between their respective appointments.
The book is written as a split narrative so, although Daniel thinks he is having a hard time convincing Natasha that she likes him, we know he isn’t. There is also some lovely asides from bit part characters in the book, like Irene, the guard at the Immigration Centre or informative chapters about the meaning of Irie. The neatness of the way the author summed up what happened to the characters, the explanations by Natasha’s dad as to why he was doing what he was doing, all make for a really clever and involved book.
I read this book really quickly and the characters are people that I will remember for a long time. The weight of expectation on second generation immigrants really made me feel for Daniel. The helplessness of Natasha to stay just because her parents had made a mistake made me see the injustice of the immigration system. Natasha had lived more of her life in America then in Jamaica, she had no connection to it yet she also had no legal connection to America.
You will read this book and connect to the events going on in America at the moment. When racial intolerance is rife this book brings it back to us that America is made up of so many different nationalities and cultures and they can all live together under one flag but, they will always have their own culture and identity and we must respect and embrace that. The kids in this book don’t want to be what their parents want them to be, they want to just be themselves, and this is a struggle in itself. The cultural baggage that they carry round from their parents is heavy, and it weighs them down. This might be the clue to the problem with Charlie. It also demonstrates how powerfully love can hit you, and change you, and when you fall in love for the first time it will blow you away. Maybe it already has…
Further Reading: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith.