Recap: All it takes is one day to fall in love. And so begins the story of Dex and Em, Em and Dex, as they so coyly refer to themselves. Emma Morley is a self-conscious, brilliant beauty who’s not sure quite what she wants out of life. Dexter Mayhew is a lost puppy himself, but he’s got all the charm, looks, confidence, and sex drive of an 18-year-old frat boy.
The story begins when the two of them fall into bed together just after graduating from college in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s July 15, 1988. The book follows their rocky relationship over the next 20 years, each chapter marking where they are on July 15th of a particular year.
It takes us through Em’s loveless relationships, Dex’s rise to and fall from fame, Em’s struggle to start a career in writing, Dex’s alcoholism, Em’s affair, and Dex’s divorce. Fate and their disdain for loneliness is what keeps them coming back to each other.
Analysis: The rollercoaster ride of Em and Dex’s relationship made me feel up and down about this book overall. Initially, I couldn’t put it down. The flirtation, romance, and awkwardness between the two of them was relatable and funny. Despite their glaring flaws, these two characters maintained likeability.
But as the story progressed and they both had moments in which their lives spiraled out of control, I found myself hating them more and more. I had to force myself to read in the hopes they would get together. It was like watching the movie Serendipity 10 times in a row.
In the third act, it picks back up, and I fell back in love with the characters. But there’s the ending. A shocking, depressing, and very unnecessary one (for those who haven’t spoiled it for themselves like I did). It simply forced drama in an already dramatic relationship. The very last chapter was well done — sentimental, romantic, and beautiful. But the fact that I was able to imagine the story done differently and still have the same poetic last chapter is not a good sign.
However, bonus points for the cool formatting of the story. To follow them on the same day every year was a new way of storytelling I had not yet experienced.
MVP: Emma Morley. As unlikable as she is at parts, she’s real. She’s beautiful, but sleeps with all the wrong men. She’s brilliant, but can’t find work. She’s awkward and cynical and downright British. And as she continues to explore her relationship with Dexter, overanalyzing it and both hating and loving it simultaneously, we realize we’ve all been Emma Morley at one time or another.