I read a beautiful, very weird book recently and I have mixed feelings…
The Goodreads summary:
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
So. This YA magical realism contemporary romance debut by Emily Henry was really great. It was the kind of book that while you were reading it, you never wanted to put it down. But then there were some parts that I didn’t like, and an ending I really didn’t like, hence the mixed feelings.
Natalie She was cool and thoughtful and so incredibly realistic and you’re immediately on her side. Half Native-American, half-white (she’s adopted so she doesn’t know a ton about her heritage) she’s the perfect mix of wondering about her heritage and the weirdness of her life and living it.
Beau At first he kind of reminded me of Jacob Black. As someone who is always and forever Team Jacob, I loved him immediately. But then as time went on he evolved into his own person, whom I also adored. Good love interest = big thumbs up from me.
The other characters Natalie has the most awesome best friend in Megan. Their friendship is realistic without being cloying. Her family is real and relatable. Her ex-boyfriend is real and deeply flawed. Even her frenemy is surprisingly well-drawn. This author writes incredibly good characters, which is so my thing.
Representation I can’t think of any other YA novel with a part Native American protagonist. I obviously have no idea what it’s like to straddle the world between Native and white America, nor what it’s like to be adopted and the complicated feelings that must come along with that, but the author really made me empathize with Natalie and how out of place she’s always felt.
Sexual Tension It was just SO GOOD. There were people in the reviews complaining about insta-love, but I didn’t really feel like that’s what this was. Yes, they meet, and there’s an immediate attraction, but how they get together is drawn out throughout the course of the book and it’s just so well done. Had me turning pages quite quickly!
The writing Good writing is a must for me, and this book did not disappoint.
“There’s nothing scarier than hearing someone you love cry, except imagining a world where that sound stops. Suddenly I can’t breathe. Can’t be here. There’s nothing scarier than loving someone.”
The less good:
The parables I know this is what makes the book unique and special and other reviewers are gushing about them, but I in general do not like parables, be they Native American stories or bible stories or whatever else there may be. Perhaps it’s my general dislike of short stories, perhaps it’s a lifetime of being forced to retell and dissect every story from the Bible in every way, shape, and form (thanks, Catholic school education!) but every time the narrative flow was interrupted with “Once there was a girl who…” I got annoyed. I liked the story I was reading, and the parables pulled me out of that.
Alice Chan Natalie’s researcher/therapist person was weirdly combative and also just way too accepting of the magical aspect of what was going on, and then tried to turn it into a scientific explanation that didn’t fully make sense. Like with the parables, every time Natalie went to visit her, I rushed through it to get back to the good stuff.
The whole time-splitting thing The Goodreads blurb compared this to The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is one of my favorite books of all time. There are some similarities, and I’m not going to get all into it here, but one of them is the way in which both books try and explain all the time traveling stuff with science. It works in The Time Traveler’s Wife; it doesn’t work here. I liked the more magical aspect of the time shifts, and think it worked fine that way. Every time they attempted to be like, “Well, THIS is what’s going on because science and wormholes and…” I was like, eh. I’ve accepted the time shift thing. Just get on with the story!
THE ENDING I DIDN’T REALLY GET IT. And I’m fully aware of the fact that this is probably because I rushed through the parts of the story I didn’t love. I think I could go back and reread the book and pay more attention to the parables and the time shifting explanation and make more sense of it, but frankly, I don’t really want to. I would much prefer to discuss it with someone; anyone game?
Despite all the “downsides”, I did really like this book and I think you should read it–mostly so I can discuss it with you. 7/10 stars.