105 Ways to Give a Book

Wait For Me

Wait for Me by An Na is prose as poetry. A mood piece, not an action piece. It’s more about the words than anything else. But what beautiful words and combinations thereof. My favorite passage:
Sometimes there are these moments that linger in the mind. They are never explainable. Why that time and not others. Why that look and not others. They just exist. I turned around and there he was. Standing perfectly still. The sunlight slanting across his lips, his chin, his scar. Illuminating all that was flawed. His dark brown eyes studying my hair. He waited so patiently, without judgment, without anger, just stood there with that white shirt held out in front of him like a flag. And in that moment, in that terrible heat, I wanted to tell him everything. Let the weight of my lies slide off my shoulders. But all I could do was take the shirt and whisper, “thank you.”
Mina has been lying to her family and using her friend. That doesn’t make for a sympathetic character. It’s also hard to believe that she would let it all go this far, but in suspending that disbelief, you enter her troubled world. For months she has been lying to her mother about her grades at school, feeding into her mother’s assertion that her daughter will go to Harvard. Mina knows she won’t get in, but has been using a friend’s romantic feelings for her to get him to forge acceptable report cards. In her desperation to keep up the façade, she gives in to his advances, while remaining the victim in her own mind. She also steals from the cash register for the family business, altering the receipts so she can pay herself for her work there.

Since all of her problems would be resolved if she were just honest with her family, I find it hard to care about her misery. She is only kind to her sister, who is ignored by their mother. There are a lot of deep family conflicts and complications in this book, which makes it an interesting read, but Mina is hard to like for all the trouble she brings on herself. When she meets a new worker, Ysrael, at the dry cleaner, she starts to fall for him and finds herself being a little more free.
“I used to hate the beach when I was little,” I said. I could feel Ysrael looking at me. “I thought the sand made the world too tipsy.”

Ysrael laughed. A clear, shining on-note bark that broke with the sea. “And now?” he asked.

I turned to him. “I feel like I can breathe again.”

Ysrael stared at the horizon and nodded silently. We stayed that way, not speaking, not moving, just let the sea lap around us. The sun had dipped below the horizon, but the sky still held on to the memory of the light. The brilliant colors balanced on the crests of the waves.
Unfortunately, she uses her feelings for him to ditch the classes to improve her SAT scores — the only constructive solution she has taken for her predicament so far — and eventually uses him also. I wanted to jump into the book, shake her, and let her know that it doesn’t really matter what college she attends.

All said, Wait for Me is a beautifully written book — I’m just not sure what it is actually trying to say.

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