has this changed my mind about romance novels, YA or otherwise?
but it was not as bad as i’d feared.
on the one hand, yes, there’s LOTS of goopy stuff in this. lots of goopy, earnest, ‘lalala we just met but it’s true love and fate and destiny’ stuff that’s just not my bag.
on the other hand, there’s a good deal here that is unconnected to the romance that i did like. for example, the chapter narrated by the waitress at the korean restaurant was a perfect bittersweet amuse-bouche.
for the most part, this is a day-long mooshy-sweet meet-cute between the rational scientific mind of a jamaican illegal immigrant facing imminent deportation and the hopeless romantic heart of a korean-american poet about to disappoint his parents (yeah, that old story). it’s really fast-paced, served up in short, POV-switching chunks that alternate between our two young lovers, the people that will cross their path/alter their fate over the course of this single day, and some rather more dispassionate interjections from an unattributed, omniscient source popping in to drop knowledge about topics as varied as the multiverse or the evolution of eyeballs or why the african-american haircare industry is almost entirely in the hands of korean-american immigrants. these facts interest me.
as for the rest, if you can embrace the fantasy of it, you will like the book more than me. (both ‘more than i liked it’ and also, probably, more than you would like me). i am an irredeemable curmudgeon full of practical concerns and i’m reading this thinking, “natasha girl, you better go home and pack your things right now instead of traipsing all across town with some stranger-danger boy!”
that same killjoy/practical part of me is impressed (but a little exhausted) by the fact that she’s able, in her last hours of living in america, to schedule so many official/adulty meetings (but not PACK or TELL HER PARENTS where she is). equally exhausting is all of their darting uptown, downtown, crosstown, uptown again etc and how does time even work in this book? because they are cramming in A LOT of activities for one day, especially since i know for a fact that the MTA is an unreliable beast. although this book also taught me that sometimes the MTA’s service disruptions occur so that fate can make love happen for other people. which is not cool. fate should stick to meddling with citibikes and cabs. the subway is for serious commuters, not romcom coincidences.
coincidence does play a huge and unrealistic role in this story, but the fact that it keeps being called out and dissected as something that is typically unrealistic and trope-y even though it is *really* happening to them in their *reality,* makes it more palatable as a device, because at least the book realizes how much of a cliché it is and isn’t trying to insult the readers’ intelligence by pulling a fast one or anything (LGM).
it also admirably resists its own momentum at times – there are opportunities to belly-flop into melodramatic teen love story mode and it (sometimes) refrains (usually when rational, reasonable natasha is driving the story). i was especially worried about how this one would end – i feared it would explode into some happily ever after ‘teen love changes american immigration policy and also ends racism, hooray!’ but it finds a better path, and even though i had to groan A BIT at the end because i am me, it wasn’t as corny as it could have been.
which is much higher praise than i’d anticipated giving a mooshy YA romance, so there. growth.
i do not love YA romance, but i’m reading this for marieclaire.com’s all-lady-authors book club. let’s see what happens!