Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
The plot isn’t really a plot more than an idea. It’s the idea of a terminally-ill girl and her friend. There’s no real sense of progress towards anything really. The obstacles that Zoe faces don’t challenge or change her. She seems the same on page one and she does on page three-hundred. The last twenty pages are really well-written, with an emotional suckerpunch to the heart but this is a fraction of the novel and not a good indication of the beginning and middle sections of what is a less-than-average delivery.
Zoe’s first-person perspective is off. She gets so consumed by clinical detailing that it becomes more about what everything looks like than dealing with the issues on any deep, or even emotive level. Cancer is the main theme of the story and it serves as a continual crutch in respect of character and plot. But the issue is never properly dealt with. Zoe takes everything in but she doesn’t interpret and process what’s happening. Her voice is generic, at best, a hollowed-out husk that has about as much personality as a bag of chips. Her shift between “Olivia”, “Livvie” and “Livs” is a bit strange too. It feels like the author is more worried about using the same word over and over (even if it is a name), rather than focusing on creating a voice the reader can either relate to, or enjoy.
What character? Calvin is initially introduced as a bit of a player/jock. He turns out to be a really sweet guy more because we are told than shown. Zoe shows very little emotional depth. She uses the same old stock habits. Crying. Laughter. It gets a bit mundane before you even get to the one-quarter mark. I felt nothing for Olivia. Kantor does a lousy job at making me empathize with her. I don’t believe she’s a real character. She reads like a caricature, as do all the characters. They’re American stereotypes that cannot process and emote what’s happening around them (particularly Zoe).
Quality of Writing: 3/20
The writing style is shocking. It’s derivative, monotonous, full of clichés and lacking any memorable phrases. If you can’t make me feel sorry for, or become emotionally involved in the plot, about a terminal girl (with cancer) who’s afraid of dying, then you really have failed spectacularly.
There are some nice analogies that give a glimpse into what Zoe’s characters might be:
- “I might as well try to cross the Atlantic Ocean on an empty refrigerator box.”
- “Making out with Calvin Taylor was like one of those car ads: zero to ninety in sixty seconds.”
But these are usually tarnished by moments that are trivial and juvenile for the characterization or too damn long that they take you completely out of the moment and fail to draw you into the story:
- “I put my hands on my hips and glared at him, and it was like all those times that I managed to contain my anger–all those annoying seat belts and bathroom locks and too-hot Frappucinos that I’d been tolerating for the past several weeks–just exploded.” This comes after Zoe finds out about Olivia’s leukaemia.
- “”You look like a prom queen,” I told her. “I’m all ‘Take me to your leader.’’” I have big eyes, which I’d always known but which I hadn’t fully appreciated were quite so enormous until I got my pixie cut. I looked exactly like a cartoon drawing of an alien.”
I knew where I was at all times but this is because the author provides pages and pages of scene-setting. It’s unnecessary and it demonstrates the lack of writing and creative ability and highlights a novice writer. The detail needed to be trimmed back and there needed to be more show and less tell.
Comparative Literature: 1/10
There’s nothing special about this story. It feels like any other story. Kantor focuses too much on description and clinical scene-setting that she loses her narrative voice and jeopardizes the emotional connection we have with the characters. John Green’s Hazel Grace, in The Fault in Our Stars, is likeable and we can form an emotional attachment unlike Zoe. Though there are plot holes big enough to walk through, it’s a more complete story. Jodi Picoult pulls on your heartstrings in a way that Kantor can only dream off in My Sister’s Keeper. The story is lost at sea; a story that adds nothing new or fresh to the genre and ultimately, fails in its aim as a tragic story.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Weak, one-dimensional characters
- A narrator who doesn’t feel consistent or relatable to a teenage audience
- A tragic story that doesn’t exactly sadden you
Overall Score: 20/100
Books You May Also Like:
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – a heartbreaking story about cancer and what it does to the family unit
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – a funny and tragic story about a girl’s battle against cancer