This book, with its bright and colourful cover, caught my attention on Instagram a few years ago. I put it on my Good Reads to-read shelf and forgot all about it. Then one day I watched a movie trailer that looked interesting and found out it was based off of a book. This book! So I bumped it up my TBR list.
The story is told through multiple perspectives (always a favourite for me!) and follows two teens that meet and fall in love in one day.
David is on his way to a meeting with a Yale recruit. He is the son of Korean immigrants, destined to become a doctor or a lawyer. His parents own a beauty salon for black women, and he has a Harvard flunk-out brother, meaning the family legacy depends on him, and the pressure is high. But he is a believer in fate and destiny, and would rather write poetry than be a doctor.
Natasha is having a difficult day. If she cannot convince someone at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to help her family, they will be deported tonight. Her family immigrated to the United States illegally 8 years prior, and are currently living crammed in a one bedroom apartment, with the living room divided into two sections for her and her brother, separated only by a blue curtain. Natasha is smart, believes in science and facts, and loves listening to Nirvana and Chris Cornell through her pink headphones.
After reading the book, I found out that the author also wrote “Everything, Everything”, which for me was meh. This though, was much better, and is definitely my favourite of the two. I really enjoyed this! I liked the meet-cute moment and the quick falling in love. The ending was not quite what I had hoped for, but I can understand why it went in the direction that it did. The characters were well thought out and distinct, and so enjoyable to read. I love the relationships between each main character and their families, and the possibilities that seemed to hang in the air.
My favourite thing about the novel was the small chapters throughout the story that were not from David or Natasha’s perspective. Some chapters were about a particular topic, such as the multiverse, women’s hair, fate, or the meaning of “irie”. Other chapters were told from another character’s voice, such as Natasha’s father, David’s father, or Irene, the security guard from the Immigration Services office. For me they really added depth to the story. I also enjoyed Natasha’s “observable facts” in her perspectives!
The book touched on some interesting and poignant topics, the most prominent being immigration. It really is such a complex and difficult topic, and Yoon covered it so well. It was interesting to read the different points of view, such as why David’s family feels so strong about their sons going to the best schools, or the Korean waitress who feels the country takes everything about their cultural identity away from them. Some things were sad to read, like the struggles Natasha’s mom went through to get her a social security card so that Natasha could get financial aid, and open up doors for her to have the better life that her parents want for her.
I think another important aspect of the book was the message of simple gestures. Natasha told someone to say “thank you” to Irene, the largely overlooked security guard at the Immigration Services office, and that “thank you” had a large impact for her. Sometimes the simplest things like saying “hello” or “thank you” to someone can have a very big impact. Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Always be kind. Always.
I really enjoyed this book, and am really looking forward to watching the movie. I felt so meh about “Everything, Everything”, and didn’t really enjoy that movie either, and honestly had I known it was the same author prior to reading, I might not have picked this up. But I am really glad I did. Yoon masterfully told a beautiful story that touched on difficult and complex topics, but it was still such a fun story, and I smiled my way through it. I am really interested to see what she writes in the future!