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Expiration Dates

A Novel



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About The Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of In Five Years and One Italian Summer comes a love story that will define a generation.

Being single is like playing the lottery. There’s always the chance that with one piece of paper you could win it all.

Daphne Bell believes the universe has a plan for her. Every time she meets a new man, she receives a slip of paper with his name and a number on it—the exact amount of time they will be together. The papers told her she’d spend three days with Martin in Paris; five weeks with Noah in San Francisco; and three months with Hugo, her ex-boyfriend turned best friend. Daphne has been receiving the numbered papers for over twenty years, always wondering when there might be one without an expiration. Finally, the night of a blind date at her favorite Los Angeles restaurant, there’s only a name: Jake.

But as Jake and Daphne’s story unfolds, Daphne finds herself doubting the paper’s prediction, and wrestling with what it means to be both committed and truthful. Because Daphne knows things Jake doesn’t, information that—if he found out—would break his heart.

Told with her signature warmth and insight into matters of the heart, Rebecca Serle has finally set her sights on romantic love. The result is a gripping, emotional, passionate, and (yes) heartbreaking novel about what it means to be single, what it means to find love, and ultimately how we define each of them for ourselves. Expiration Dates is the one fans have been waiting for.


Chapter One Chapter One
The paper is blank save for the name: Jake. The four letters rest on cream stationery lacking any additional information but sporting a firm black border. It’s weighty, this note. Significant in my hands.

I find it slipped under my door on my way to dinner. The dinner that, if this paper is to be believed, will introduce me to the man I will spend the rest of my life with. This has never happened before. But then again, it’s not the kind of thing that happens twice.

The restaurant is in West Hollywood, not far from where I live. I like to choose the place. If I get the paper late, like, say, at dessert—and it says two hours—I can wrap things up quickly.

Tonight we are at the tail end of summer in Los Angeles, and warmer nights are descending into the low seventies. The wind has even started to pick up—reminding us of all that fall can bring. I tuck my hair behind my ear and toss it over my shoulder as I climb the steps and open the door.

“Hey, Daphne!” The hostess at Gracias Madre, a casual vegan Mexican place on Melrose, recognizes me immediately. Her name is Marissa, and I know she used to bartend at The Pikey on Sunset, before they closed. “You’re the first one here, do you want to sit?”

The space is beautiful—a bar area spills out onto a large and lively patio to the side. There are potted trees throughout the restaurant, and warm, yellow light falls from the overhead glass fixtures and onto the terra-cotta-tiled floors like honeycomb.

I’m nervous, and I’m never nervous. I’m wearing a black halter top and a pair of 501s. Neon kitten heels. I would have probably chosen a different ensemble, maybe even something a little more romantic, seeing as how this is going to be my last first date ever, but I was already dressed, and now here we are.

“Sure,” I tell her. “I love your jumpsuit.” I point to the denim romper she’s wearing. I could never pull it off, but she definitely is.

“It’s from the vintage on Melrose—I took your tip.”

“Throwback,” I say, as we walk. “Good shit.”

There are several places in West Hollywood that sell secondhand, but Wasteland is the best. I don’t have a ton of hobbies, but thrifting is one of the few.

She leaves me at the table—I’m in the back of the restaurant, which gives me a full view of the entire space—and I take out my phone.

There’s a text from my mom, Debra. Honey, did you look at the pictures I sent? She’s a burgeoning photographer, primarily focusing on—I kid you not—mezuzahs.

The answer is no.

One from my landlord, Mike, who wants to know if the gardeners came today. I shoot him back an emoji. Also no. A flurry of pings on a group chat I have muted—college friends, something about Morgan’s bachelorette. I haven’t seen half of them in a decade, I’m surprised they’re even including me.

And one from Hugo—my ex-boyfriend (we’ll get there): Well?

He’s not here yet, I write back. Then: Just sat.

I consider telling him about the fact that this time, for the first time, the paper was blank, but decide against it. I’m about to meet my soul mate feels like more of an in-person thing, or at least a phone call. We convey too many important things in too few words these days.

Drinks after? I’m meeting Natalie at Craig’s, should be done by 8.

I try to remember who Natalie is. The girl he met at Bikram? Or the one from Bumble?


I put my phone facedown on the table.

Five minutes go by, then ten. I order a drink—one of their alt margaritas from the menu. Something with agave and smoked jalapeño. It arrives and goes down salty and tangy.

He runs late, I think. It’s not ideal, but I can live with that. About five years ago, right around the time Hugo and I called it quits, I decided to start showing up to places on time. I’ve been pretty good about it. LA traffic notwithstanding. It’s all about learning the rhythms of your city. Don’t try and get to WeHo from Brentwood in the afternoon. There is always construction on Wilshire by Westwood Boulevard; take Sunset. San Vicente to Seventh Street to the Pacific Coast Highway is the slowest way to get to Malibu, but the most beautiful.

My phone dings. Another text from my mom: ?

My parents live in the Palisades, on the other side of the 405 in Los Angeles. The Palisades is like Pleasantville—all the new houses belong on Cape Cod, and there’s a shopping center that takes holidays a little too seriously. It’s also about as far as you can get and still live in the same city.

Love it! I write back, without opening her email. Last week she sent me an entire Dropbox full of her rabbi in various states of undress in the backyard. I consider explaining to her that just because she loves Judaism and photography does not mean all her photography has to be Jewish-influenced, or that her Jewish identity now has to be caught up in being a photographer, but I decide against it. It would take more than two texts, and I want to be present right now.


Thirty-three years, six significant relationships, forty-two first dates, one long weekend in Paris.

And now, here we are. The first and last blank sheet of paper.


I look up to see a man not a lot taller than I am, with graying brown hair and hazel-green eyes. He’s wearing a button-down shirt and jeans and carries a single red rose.

“Hi,” I say. I make a move to stand up to—what? Hug him? I sit back down.

He hands me the rose. When he speaks his voice is pleasant and familiar. “Someone was selling them outside, and I thought I should bring a proper consolation for being fifteen minutes late.”

When he smiles, the lines around his eyes crinkle.

“You were right,” I say. I take the rose. “What took you so long?”

He shakes his head, like, Oh boy. “How much time do we have?” Jake asks me.

I take him in. Real, incarnate, across from me now. He has a birthmark under his jaw, a freckle by his left eye. All of these minute details that make up a person, that make up this person, my person.

“A lot,” I tell him. “We have a lot of time.”

About The Author

Photograph by Ann Molen

Rebecca Serle is the New York Times bestselling author of Expiration DatesOne Italian SummerIn Five YearsThe Dinner List, and the young adult novels The Edge of Falling and When You Were Mine. Serle also developed the hit TV adaptation Famous in Love, based on her YA series of the same nameShe is a graduate of USC and The New School and lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Find out more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 19, 2024)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982166823

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Raves and Reviews

"A passionate story about love and trust that will have you sniffling long before the twist." —People

"A romantic gem. Grabs you on page one and never lets go." —LAURA DAVE, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

"Daphne’s sometimes heart-wrenching, often heartwarming search for meaningful relationships, both romantic and platonic, is sure to inspire." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"Serle’s compulsively readable prose will attract fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Henry." —Booklist

"Serle provides an interesting conceit and a healthy dose of wit that readers will appreciate. An entertaining love story with moments of depth." —Kirkus

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