Twelve Hours in Manhattan by Maan Gabriel
Recommended: if you know what you’re getting into
For a complex and expansive story that covers years of pain and grief and hope and fear. NOT for a lighthearted story or any kind of rom-com tale
Bianca Maria Curtis is at the brink of losing it all when she meets Eric at a bar in Manhattan. Eric, as it turns out, is the famous Korean drama celebrity Park Hyun Min, and he’s in town for one night to escape the pressures of fame. From walking along Fifth Avenue to eating ice cream at Serendipity to sharing tender moments on top of the Empire State building, sparks fly as Bianca and Eric spend twelve magical hours far away from their respective lives. In that time, they talk about the big stuff: love, life, and happiness, and the freedom they both seek to fully exist and not merely survive.
But real life is more than just a few exhilarating stolen moments in time.
As the clock strikes the twelfth hour, Bianca returns back to the life she detests to face a tragedy that will test her strength and resolve—and the only thing she has to keep going is the memory of a man she loves in secret from a world away.
Overall this was a decent story, but my experience reading it was tainted in two key ways (more below). For quick reference, this is what I think is important to know before reading this book:
Things to know:
– this actually takes place over the course of three YEARS and the titular twelve hours are only the first quarter or so of the book
– this is NOT a romcom or lighthearted read
– this book has a lot of pain and grief that characters have to sort through
– this book is a good read, but best if you know what you’re going into
I had two main issues with this book: expectations and confusion. This book gave the impression with the title, cover art, and summary, that it is more of a rom-com lighthearted story when it absolutely is not. Being something deeper and darker isn’t a bad thing, but it was extremely jarring to adjust to that on the fly when it was way more grim and pained than I had believed it would be from the media introducing it. In particular, it was compared to Susan Lee’s Seoulmates which is so incredibly incorrect a comparison that the only thing they have in common is a Korean character and some elements of romance.
The second issue, confusion, started to become more of a problem in the last half of the book. There were scenes of dialogue where I couldn’t figure out who was talking because their name wasn’t mentioned, and I would have to trace back to try to figure out contextually who might be saying something. Multiple times I just had to give up and move on without being totally sure.
That issue was unenjoyable, but it escalated towards the end. A pivotal conversation and ensuing event that define the ending of the book still aren’t clear to me what happened or why. I am not sure what the people involved were trying to say, why they reacted the way they did, why it affected future events so much… I just have no idea. That really took away from the ending because it was like I was left behind while it moved on to give me whiplash in the ensuing responses.
Despite that, though, the story itself was engaging and emotional! Bianca was a bit of a sad sack in the beginning part and it wasn’t really clear why until a bit later on, but dang was there sympathy once we learn more about her life. I really wanted to cheer for her happiness and see her achieve dreams.
Freedom is a constant theme in this story, as well as the opposite of being trapped. Whether by obligations, career, people in your life, fame, or any other number of things, it all comes back to fear that prevents people from achieving the freedom they seek in this story. I so desperately wanted a happy ending to their story, and you’ll just have to read it yourself if you want to know if they get one or not. It’s a back and forth ride the whole way through, so be ready for some emotional investment in here.
Thank you to NetGalley, She Writes Press, and BookSparks for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review!
5 thoughts on “ARC Review: Twelve Hours in Manhattan by Maan Gabriel (4/18/23)”
This book’s description reminds me of the movie “Serendipity.” There was a scene there in the Serendipity dessert place too, but also it featured a couple falling in love in NYC over a very short period, followed by years apart. However, the movie was definitely a rom com. I’m not sure from your notes exactly what this book is.
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Ha! They mention the movie when they visit the dessert place 🙂 this is absolutely NOT a rom com. It’s more of just adult fiction, with a relationship included. Although there’s romantic relationships in it, it’s not exactly a romantic book if that makes sense.
Huh, that’s amusing. 🙂 And it does make sense. It’s like the difference between romance and Romance.