Emma and Dexter “meet” after their University graduation and stay the night together but don’t, you know, consummate their meeting. That night marks the beginning of their friendship, and One Day thereafter checks in with them once every year for 20 years to see how their lives are doing. At the beginning, Emma’s life is shitty and Dexter’s life is great, but toward the end, Emma’s life is looking up and Dexter’s is falling apart. Throughout, they have ups and downs, but we’re meant to understand that they’re cosmically drawn together because they’re meant to be, or something.
My biggest problem with all of this was that Dexter is an asshole, and Emma was way too good for him. I know that in real life, sometimes nice people are in relationships with assholes, and we scratch our heads and wonder why, so this isn’t entirely out of touch with reality. It was a frustrating read though, because I felt that the novel was ever so slightly biased in Dexter’s direction in terms of how much attention was paid to the two protagonists. Most of Dexter’s chapters were just about Dexter, whereas many of Emma’s chapters were kind of about her, and kind of about her and Dexter. He had a bit more of a “lightning rod” life, with the glitz and descent into drinking and drugs, but the effect of all of that for me was that I ended up not really being very sympathetic to him at all. And then I didn’t get reprieve when I was reading about Emma, because so much of her story revolved around her trying to maintain (and sometimes, salvage) her friendship with Dexter. When she finally “dumped” him I mentally fist-bumped her, but then of course they got back together — this is a love story after all!
Oh, and as if that all wasn’t enough, Nicholls had to go for the SHOCKING TWIST toward the end, the “fate’s a bitch” ending. It was just… no. Anyway, I would only recommend reading this if someone paid you to do it, or if you don’t mind reading about dicks getting rewarded for their poor behavior.