Monday, August 9, 2010

Review - One Day by David Nicholls

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows? Twenty years, two people, One Day. From the author of the massive bestseller Starter for Ten.

Review: I found this book almost by accident, not really knowing anything about it except that I saw the movie Starter for Ten (I will watch anything with James McAvoy…seriously, ANYTHING) and liked it. Judging from Starter for Ten, I expected something Nick Hornsby-esque from David Nicholls. A sort of “guy lit” if you will. And there are aspects of that in One Day, but he writes from Emma’s point of view so well and with such honesty that it feels like the perfect meeting of chick lit and guy lit (I'm sorry, but I will not call it "dick lit." I feel like that's almost as insulting as people who say "chick lit" with that condescending sneer).

One Day follows the lives of Emma and Dexter year after year, always on July 15th, St. Swithin’s Day. We meet the characters immediately after they’ve graduated from university and I instantly connected to both Emma and Dexter, being in my late twenties myself. As they navigated their mid- to late-twenties, trying to figure out where they fit into the world, I related maybe a bit too much, especially to Emma (I think the actual words “oh my God, this character is me” might have gone though my head once or twice). I saw friends in elements of Dexter (though perhaps not to his extreme) and wanted to shake him as he continually overlooked the obvious and made choices that were incredibly destructive.

Both characters are flawed, but likable. As much of an ass as Dexter can be, you can’t help but see him through Emma’s eyes and have a certain affection for the conceited screw-up. You knew there was a good, smart man beneath the booze and women. Similarly, you see Emma as Dexter sees her, a brilliant, beautiful woman with far too little self-confidence.

One Day doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s an engaging (I think I read it within the span of 48 hours), fun story, that you could easily imagine being a blockbuster rom com. There’s a certain amount of emotional manipulation that Nicholls uses, particularly toward the end, (Janelle, I think you will see some tear stains on that copy I gave you) which I bought into, but also put me off a little. Even as I was crying I was groaning a bit at the “twist” Nicholls threw in there.

My only other complaint is the slight predictability of the characters. Neither really surprised me from year to year. I really enjoyed the book and was eager to see where the characters would be from year to year, but wasn’t blown away but anything. There’s something missing that takes this from “eh, that was pretty good” to “OMG best book EVER.”

What I think I liked most about Nicholls is that, judging from what I've seen so far, he writes character-driven stories that are gender neutral.  Whether you're into "guy lit" or “chick lit” One Day is entirely enjoyable, full of humor, drama, and a bit of romance.

And, just a note to Hollywood producers: I’ll be waiting impatiently for my James McAvoy rom com adaptation which needs to happen as soon as possible.

Lit Snit Verdict: B+

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