“In the quiet darkness, I thought about stars. The ones that aren't stars at all, but memories of ones that burned out millions of years ago. I thought about the stars that had already collapsed and turned into black holes, places where even light can't escape. Places where, from a distance, time seems to stop.
I held my wrist above my head and clicked the button on the side of my watch. The screen turned a bright blue--1:07 AM. I clicked the button again and the display changed to a countdown:
06:10:42:10, 06:10:42:09, 06:10:42:08...
I lay awake for hours, wishing I could grab the seconds and hold them between my fingers--but only watching as they fell away, and disappeared forever.
~SEVEN DAYS OF YOU by Cecilia Vinesse
SEVEN DAYS OF YOU was a book that never made it onto my radar....until I saw a Goodreads ad declaring it was a book for fans of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. I loved ANNA, and I'm still searching for that elusive book that can live up to it. Many books have been compared to ANNA, and I still have yet to see one live up to my expectations. But Anna in Japan? Um, that sounds like it could be the coolest book EVER!!!! SEVEN DAYS OF YOU actually comes closest to Anna, in some ways. I can see the comparison. Stylistically, it very much reminds me of ANNA. Both books creep ever closer to a deadline and portray friends who both secretly want something more, but can't bring themselves to admit it until far too late. Both books deal with groups of friends. Both books are set in foreign countries.
SEVEN DAYS OF YOU takes place in Japan, a country near and dear to my own heart. Sophia was born in Japan and spent the formative years of her life in Japan. She has also spent the last four years of her life in Japan. Sophia also spends a month each year with her father in Paris. She feels more loyal to Japan and France than she does any other country, yet she belongs nowhere. Now, as her mother's research grant nears its end, she has seven days left to say goodbye to her friends and the country she knows best before the family must return to New Jersey in the United States. When she finds out that Jamie, her former best friend and now arch-enemy, is returning to Tokyo the week before she's set to leave, she's angry. She never wants to see him again. Now he's returning to steal her going-away thunder? Pfft, no way! But what if Jamie has changed? What if Sophia, too has changed? The two friends-turned-enemies have one week left to reconnect before they are once more in separate countries...
If you've ever moved before and been uprooted from everything and everyone you love, SEVEN DAYS OF YOU will resonate. It's worse for Sophia because she's moving to another CONTINENT. Flights are way too expensive to make annual trips back and forth. It's even worse for her because she reconnects with Jamie and falls in love a mere WEEK before she leaves. Their time together is numbered. It's a classic Will They or Won't They? // Can It Happen? // Will It Last? It will have readers turning pages because they HAVE to know the final outcome. People will be rooting for a way to change fate, to give Sophia a reason to stay. She's FINALLY getting the life she always wanted in Japan, and she shouldn't have to give it up. These themes will appeal to so many readers and endear the book to them.
As for me personally......
I have so many conflicting feelings about SEVEN DAYS OF YOU, to tell you the truth. Most people aren't going to have this divided opinion. I think a lot of people are really going to love the novel and be swept away as they're immersed in Japanese culture. There's so much thrown around from snack food to Japanese convenience stores to train stations. Cecilia Vinesse brought Shibuya Station to life perfectly and made me miss the area so much--even down to the statue of Hachiko. At the same time, there's so much thrown into the story that at times, I felt like it was too much. Did we need to know the brand-name for every type of snack? It makes it authentic, sure, but it was so much.
One thing you'll hear frequently from people who have lived and worked in Japan through programs such as JET (The one I used when I spent two years there) is every situation is different. Your experience isn't the same as anyone else's, even down to the way you live and work. I think it's that Vinesse's experience was so different than my own that made the book feel "off" at times to me. I looked into her biography afterwards to see if she'd done JET too, or vacationed in Tokyo, etc. She She was born in France, before moving to Japan, and then to the USA, and then BACK to Japan, and then back to the USA again. She grew up in an expat community in Tokyo and attended an international high school during her time there. So obviously, her experience is VERY different from mine, and likely very close to Sophia's experience.
At the same time, for ME...I mean, we always had a tough time "creating" nicknames for Japanese words. I think the only one we had that stuck was the Shink for the Shinkansen bullet train, and even then, we didn't like using the term because it wasn't a Japanese word. But Sophia and her friends--even her Japanese friend Mika--throw the term Shibs (meaning Shibuya) around CONSTANTLY. It annoyed me a bit. As did all the English lingo and American-isms...especially when it came to Sophia and Mika because they should have both had more of a Japanese lingo, having spent so little time overseas. (And what was with Mika's obsession with obscure American 90s culture? To me, she read as being Japanese and having lived in Japan, yet she felt SO American...especially for being obsessed with stuff from way before she was born! Blink-and-you-miss them shows like My So-Called Life, etc. IDK...)
I was also a little put-off by the fact that Sophia and David don't really ever try to learn Japanese. Even though they live in Japan. Even though Sophia has spent SO MUCH OF HER LIFE in Japan. I mean, I get going to an International School and all, but how do you not pick up Japanese wandering around Japan? How do you not EVER need it in daily life? How does your school not have any Japanese classes to help you out? I mean, it feels like I knew more Japanese than Sophia, and I only lived there for two years! So that drove me a little nuts and greatly hindered my enjoyment at times. Just because I was bashing my head over things that were inconsistent with my OWN experience in Japan. But, like I said before, Vinesse also lived in Japan, and her experience was a lot closer to Sophia's then my own could ever be. So I can only say so much on that front. I think these issues I have honestly won't be issues with most people. Most people have never been to Japan, or just vacationed there. For them, this book WILL bring pieces of Japan to life and help them experience at least a small area of Tokyo!
A lot of contemporary YA readers LOVE when books are set in foreign countries because they can "experience" that magic. They also love books full of romance. Books that focus on romance. SEVEN DAYS OF YOU will hit a home run for so many of its targeted readers!