One Day by David Nicholls
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Dexter and Emma meet on the night of their graduation from college, July 15th, and while they spend a passionate night together, both agree that there is no real future for the two of them and they go their separate ways. But over the course of the next twenty years, their paths intertwine in various ways, and the novel shows the reader exactly how they are in and out of each other’s lives by giving us a snapshot of each year on July 15th.
This is one of those novels where I can’t figure out what I really think about it or how to feel about it. To start with, I didn’t enjoy either Dexter or Emma as characters – Dexter was selfish and obnoxious, Emma was too passive and didn’t ever want to make decisions about her own life. I sort of liked Emma as a person, and I wanted to root for her, but she frustrated me. Dexter I just plain couldn’t stand. He was SUCH A JERK. To the point that when he finally stopped being such a major asshole, I couldn’t care about his character enough to be happy that he had grown as a person. I was just done with him.
So much of the plot felt manipulative to me as the reader. Nicholls was trying to create emotions within the reader, and while he definitely did that, it felt a bit overdone. Like one more bad thing couldn’t possibly happen to drive these two apart when it was obvious from the first chapter that the whole point of this book is for them to be together, eventually. The ending especially made me angry … and while I can appreciate an ending like this, it was just not what I had ever imagined could possibly happen to this story and these characters. It left me wanting to throw the book across the room.
BUT. Here’s the thing. I could not put this book down. I read it voraciously, intensely, desperately. It had been a long time since I’d felt so tied to a book, so desperate to find out what would happen next. Additionally, I find it incredible that Nicholls was able to pull these emotions out of me, about fictional characters’ lives. The fact that he made me question whether I loved or hated the book (and I’m still not sure) is a testament to his talent as a writer.
So would I recommend the book? Absolutely yes, based on the experience I had reading it and how deeply I felt tied to it. Did I love it? No, but I loved how it made me feel. I didn’t hate it either – I can’t quite categorize my feelings. But this back and forth in my brain about the book makes me want to talk about it with everyone, so please let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought!