Title: The Night We Said Yes (2015)
Author: Lauren Gibaldi
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 304 pages
Review: The Night We Said Yes is the story of two separate nights told from Ella’s perspective: the ‘Then’, the night she first met Matt, and the ‘Now’, which is the night he comes back, one year after abruptly leaving her and all of their best friends. Although Ella’s not sure he’s worth a second chance, she agrees when he asks her to relive the night that brought them together.
Sounds nifty, right? I thought so, but this is an example of a book with a somewhat interesting idea but with a frustrating execution. A note of caution: this review has some spoilers as I wanted to go a little deeper to justify the rating I’m giving it.
A disclaimer first—I’m not a big fan of alternating then-and-now chapters. It has the potential to work when what happened then and what’s happening now are both significant to the plot or the character, but with this book, there was just not enough to keep me engaged. The events that happened in the two nights were so repetitive and not particularly interesting that they failed in keeping my attention. It’s a bit like reading about the exact same day but phrased somewhat differently the second time. In other words, it’s dull.
Then there are the characters. While Ella and Matt are the centre of this book, we also become familiar with Meg, Ella’s best friend, and Meg’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Jake. Unfortunately all four were pretty weakly characterised, seemingly playing off the typical YA/romance tropes: Ella as Miss Goody Two Shoes who got burned bad and now can’t love again, Meg as the confident and beautiful best friend who can sometimes come across as just a tad controlling, Matt as the shy, nerdy guy with secrets of his own, and Jake as the classic ‘bad boy’ who flirts with every girl he can in front of his own girlfriend. They were bland, inconsistent and just plain uninteresting.
Maybe it was the poor characterisation, but neither Ella’s relationship with Matt nor Meg’s with Jake was satisfying in the least; instead I felt they were both toxic. I just couldn’t understand why these people would stay together or why they are even attracted to each other. The lack of character development is frustrating, too—literally nothing has changed from the beginning of the book to the end, which made me feel this whole thing was just rather pointless.
Ella is dangerously co-dependent. She spends many chapters exploring how bad she had it when Matt left her and telling us why she wouldn’t and couldn’t forgive him, but nearing the end, she has a seemingly out-of-nowhere change of heart and decides to accept him back, just like that. Meg’s relationship with Jake, meanwhile, is just unhealthy from the onset. He’ll flirt with other girls and come running to her when things didn’t pan out, and Meg just welcomes him back every time because hey, she loves him. I understand that on-off relationships have their place in romance, but come on. Healthy relationships should, too.
My next problem with this book lies in its dialogue. Have you ever read a novel where you constantly have this nagging feeling that people just don’t speak like that? Well, the dialogue in this book just sounds forced, unnatural and flat, which really didn’t help because I was already feeling disconnected from the characters.
At the end of the day, I found The Night We Said Yes sorely lacking, and with its bland characters and poorly developed plot, this book is just not for me.