First off, here is a video about how the book beautiful cover art was created:
It's one of my favorite things about the book. Don't get me wrong - I did enjoy this story, but it was also a little sickly sweet for me. Insta-love teenage romance isn't really my thing. But the characters are likable and relatable, which saves it.
The narrative alternates between the two main characters, Natasha and Daniel, and most of the story takes place over the course of one day. Natasha is an undocumented Jamaican immigrant, having come to NYC with her family when she was 8 years old. She's now in her senior year of high school and identifies entirely as an American. But her family has been found out, and they are being deported - tonight. So she's starting her day by visiting embassies and lawyer's offices to try to find a way to stay. Daniel is Korean-American. He was born in NYC but his parents are immigrants, and have very high expectations of Daniel - that he will go to Harvard or Yale and become a doctor. Nevermind what Daniel wants, which is to be a poet.
Daniel spots Natasha walking along the sidewalk and is instantly smitten. He starts to follow her, and eventually they meet. Daniel, the poet, is certain they are "meant to be" together, and spends the rest of the day trying to convince her of this. Science-minded Natasha remains unconvinced for some time, but eventually gives in to their "love-at-first-sight" chemistry. If you believe in insta-love... or you have a bunch of romance in your heart, instead of cynicism... you'd probably enjoy this part more than I did!
While I wasn't all that interested in the love story, I really did like their back-and-forth banter, and the slow (if you can call one day "slow") way they learn to trust each other with the truths about their families. The immigration aspects were well done - Natasha's family's struggles to remain in the country, and Daniel's conflict as a first generation American at odds with the "American dream" his parents want for him.
For me, the most compelling parts of the book are the occasional chapters where narration shifts from Natasha and Daniel to the perspectives of some of the other people they come into contact with. The security guard at the embassy, for example, who Natasha thinks is being nosy and judgmental, but is actually incredibly lonely, and just looking for ways to connect with someone. There's also chapter for each father, Natasha's and Daniel's, which explain some of the heartbreak that has led to their character flaws. I loved how these chapters humanized people that might otherwise have been relegated to being one-dimensional extras in the Natasha-Daniel love story.
UP NEXT: The Housekeepers, by Alex Hay