Book Review: One Day, David Nicholls

Warning: this review will contain spoilers. I will warn you when they start so you can either stop reading to attempt to skip over them.

There are sometimes books I pick up in Barnes and Noble, want to buy, and then don’t. One Day was one of them. I’m not sure what it was that kept me from throwing it onto my tower of novels, but it wasn’t until I got a bajillion dollars in B&N gift cards for Christmas that I bought it online. My overall impression: I’m glad I read it. I found it really enjoyable, for the most part. And I loved the concept — following the lives of Emma and Dexter (Dex and Em, Em and Dex) on the same day, Jul5 15th, during the twenty years that span after their college graduation.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this novel so much is because it comes across as very much character-driven instead of plot driven. Oh, I have no problems with a good plot, but sometimes I just get so caught up in action and moving forward that I quit paying attention to the characters. Given the structure of this novel — most chapters are a year later than the previous chapters — the book literally moves forward but its real focus is on the development of Dexter and Emma. And the best part was that I could really relate to some of the things that the characters go through, namely Emma. The struggle for identity, the desire for a person you shouldn’t want but want anyway… and those are just a few that I think most 20-somethings could relate to.

Warning: HERE ARE WHERE THE SPOILERS START. Don’t say you weren’t warned!


So I think my last paragraph makes it really clear that I like Emma. A lot. Because I can relate to her (although there are some ways in which I hope I never relate to her, but we’ll get there in a minute.) But I didn’t really feel the same way about Dexter. I know he’s very much like a real person, and in being real he struggles with alcohol and drug addiction (mostly just alcohol). But he is pretty much a bastard the entire novel. And any time there was some kind of humanity in him, he went and pissed me off all over again. In some ways, he reminded me of Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy. I will never like Alex, because every time they make him slightly less of a dirt-bag, the producers do something to make me hate him even more. Same with Dexter. He never really rises above in my mind, not even when he finally, finally, finally gets with Emma.

And then there is Emma. Emma, who I genuinely liked. Emma, whose arc was so real and true to me. Emma, who was hit by a car while she was riding home from the pool on her bicycle and Emma, who died as a result of being hit by said car. I was actually kind of pissed off at that point. All this build up and then she’s gone. Of course, it was a good way to show Dexter’s unchanging characterization, but it was the worst part of the book to me. And I thought the few chapters after Emma’s death were by far the weakest in the book.

Okay. Spoilers are done. I think. So still read with caution.

In general, I did really like the book, and would recommend it to others. It’s not a long, hard read, but it’s also not a light, trite read — it falls neatly in the middle, with its humor and its more serious moments.

Rating: 8.5 (until the stupid end, then 5!)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Book Review: One Day, David Nicholls

  1. Dorothy Snarker

    YES! You’re right, the characters are so well-developed and they really make the story what it is. This could have been a really trite novel like so many in the romance genre, but Emma and Dex were so real and full of real flaws, and their relationship was woven together in this really organic, genuine manner. I thought I’d roll my eyes the whole time, but I loved it. I can’t wait for the movie.

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