Last week I found myself binge-watching Carrie Hope Fletcher videos on YouTube, and I stumbled upon her video “Dear Tom+Gi| The One Where I Read A Lot of Books” which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8BbmPOpQzw
In the video she mentions a book called ‘The Year I Met You’ by Cecelia Ahern which sounded rather interesting, so the next day on my way to work I popped into Tesco and bought the book; a few days later and I’m finished, so here i am writing a review of what is an extremely heart-warming novel.
Firstly I had never read anything by Cecelia Ahern before so it was unmarked territory for me, yet trusting the judgement of Carrie Hope Fletcher and being taken aback by the gripping nature of the first opening line, I was excited to delve into the story. It opens with “I was five years old when I learned that I was going to die” – to hear, that at five years old our protagonist had such a morbid epiphany, it would be impossible to resist reading on, as obviously I did, and it seemed that this realisation of eventual death was a strong running theme throughout the book. Set in Ireland our protagonist Jasmine takes us on her journey of self-discovery as she discovers several realisations about the people and things around her, all during a years gardening leave. The early knowledge that at some time, young or old she will die propels Jasmine to live her life a certain way, to do the best for herself as she can and to protect her sister – who has down syndrome – yet throughout the period of the year she understands that her view, her understanding of herself and everyone around her was essentially wrong.
Although the way she is living her life and viewing people is in order to protect herself, and to care for those who she loves, she doesn’t realise that she is actually hurting herself and others, and that really the person who needs the most care is her. It’s almost as if the novel is written as a sort of coming-of-age novel but for someone already in adulthood. This subject matter and genre is one that I love profoundly and that I prefer to write in, however when I write I often focus quite heavily with regards to the dialogue in my stories, which made this book quite interesting. The Year I Met You is written, for the most part – or at least to start with – through an inner monologue from Jasmine, very rarely talking to the people she is talking about. She watches her neighbours, telling us how she feels about each of them including the seemingly obnoxious Matt Marshall, but it seems to take a while before she confronts those thoughts and feelings. She bottles it all up. It seems that it’s not until her mind begins to change, and her views are becoming more open minded that the dialogue increases, and the story has a bigger focus on her direct connection to each person, rather than her passive opinions.
The eventual friendship(s) that becomes the focus of the book is the most heart-warming element, the fact that the story is so thrilling, so emotionally gripping, and so personal while being about something that everyone at some point understands is wonderful. There is romance in the book, but it is never the primary focus, which is nice, there is nothing in the book to suggest that any part of the story was manipulated at all in order to be received better commercially; everything is written for the purpose of the narrative. It feels as if it’s a non-fiction account of someones betterment of themselves, and more than this we’re included. When speaking about her neighbour Matt Marshall she uses the pronoun ‘You’ as if we are him, thus making us a part of her life, hence why it is so easy to be sucked into the inescapable personal chemistry that you’ll feel towards the main characters.
As much as I love this book and would recommend it to everyone that asks or doesn’t ask for a recommendation, there were a couple things I would have preferred. Personally I really loved how the book was about neighbours and understanding that people really aren’t what you think you see all the time, sometimes they’re completely different. Of course we realise this with Matt and Dr Jameson, but I really wanted to know more about the smaller characters in the neighbourhood. Like the couple next door to Jasmine, we hear about them, but I didn’t ever feel like I really knew them, but then neither did Jasmine, and we were following her so it still works. One character however that I still felt a little saddened by was Monday, he was a good character, he was well developed but at the same time by the end of it I kind of knew him but I really wish I’d known more, known more about where he came from, and why Jasmine was so special to him.
But anyway, if you haven’t read it, then go and read it!
Currently Reading: ‘Precious Thing’ – Collette McBeth