I read this one on the Eurostar the day before meeting Gayle Forman at YALC London. It was a bad idea as I ended crying on the train and my teenage daughter thinking “What the Hell mom! I SO don’t know you!”
The day after, at the discussion panel about friendship in YA books Gayle was extremely pleased to learn that I cried because she is an evil woman! Or rather because she loves crying while writing and think a day without crying is a lost day.
But I digress because ….what’s this story about????
This is not a romance it’s a friendship story. An unlikely friendship.
It’s about ties being created between three strangers whose path was never meant to cross.
They are all lonely. They have all lost their way.
Freya born singing has lost her voice.
Harun has lost the love of his life.
Nathaniel has lost everything.
With short sentences, showing rather than telling Gayle Forman brushed a realistic and moving portrait of these three young people all desperate in their own way.
In barely the span of 24 hours they will become a unit, stronger together than apart each a piece of their life puzzle.
Told in 3 POV with back and forth between the present day and their past each character’s path is painted till this fateful collision day.
Lovers of diversity in books will be in heaven with this one! The set of characters was flawless, diverse and very relatable. To the point where you don’t just want but need to be their friends, part of their unit.
Freya is semi Ethiopian and a young singer, the next best thing happening in the music world. She has lost her dad and later has lost her sister. It was the price to pay to get the famous Shark as a producer. But was it worth it? Now she has lost her voice but without her voice, will people still love her? Who is she anymore?
Harun is from Pakistani descend. He is a loving son, doting on his family, a good boy and …gay but still under cover. It’s not easy to own his sexuality when your family is very traditional and your religion is against homosexuality. Trapped in his lies and pretense he has lost the love of his life.
“None of these people are James, and for that, Harun hates them. He hates everything and everyone in this world. If Allah made the world, why did he make Harun wrong? If Allah is love, then why isn’t James the one walking through the tunnel instead of some white boy?”
Nathaniel was my favorite. The raw and wild young man whose dad was a kid. Brought up by his dad they were “us against the world”. Having a big kid as a dad may seem fun until you have to play the adult.
“You’re all right, aren’t you?” “Later, Nathaniel figured out it wasn’t really a question. People wanted reassurances, they wanted to be left off the hook, so even though he wasn’t all right or okay, even though he was a frog boiling in a pot, even though he was being swallowed up by the ground beneath him, he answered: “It’s all good.””
Nathaniel had a purity and innocence that will bring all your protective instincts out.
The whole book is about personal journey and finding people to help you find your way when you are lost. The day their lives literally collided was their turning point. It set in motion a series of event helping them to find the right path. Maybe not the path they planned at the beginning of the story but the one they needed.
Gayle Forman’s writing is efficient. To the point. Her sentences cut through your soul like a surgeon’s scalpel cuts through flesh. With smooth strokes, little details here and there, she really showed how difficult it was for Harun to grow up “different” and to have to hide it.
I told you that I cried on the train, well my favorite scene is a very emotional one.
No, people are note dying.
No, a puppy has not been kicked.
No, a mother hasn’t abandoned her kids.
What made me cry was an act of kindness.
When Freya and Harun, realizing Nathaniel has not eaten for days will order a huge serving just to give their meal to Nathaniel who was too shy and too humble to ask for anything.
I really want to share some of that scene with you so, sorry if it’s long…
“When the food comes, Nathaniel is overcome by the force of his appetite. (…) He is nearly undone by the taste of the food. (…) .
It’s only when he looks up and sees Freya and Harun staring at him with similarly peculiar expressions that he understands he has done something wrong, revealed the wild man within him. He looks down at his barren plate. He’s devoured everything: the sandwich, the fries, the pickle, even the wilted lettuce that he realizes was meant for garnish. Meanwhile, neither Freya nor Harun has eaten even half of their sandwiches.
He’s mortified. He’s been too long out of this world. He’s become uncivilized.
Wordlessly, Harun takes half of his sandwich and puts it on Nathaniel’s plate. Freya does the same.
Nathaniel protests, but they cut him off.
“I’m not hungry, “Harun says.
“Neither am I,” Freya admits.
Nathaniel stares at his magically replenished plate. “If you weren’t hungry, why did you order this food?” he asks.
There’s a pause as Freya and Harun glance at each other. Then they look at him. “Because you were,” they say”
Do you get now why I loved this book so much and why I found myself crying on the Eurostar while my daughter pretended not knowing me?
Recommend it? Of course!
Have you read it? Or any Gayle Forman’s book? And do you cry reading books?
Thanks for reading!