4 OUT OF 5 STARS
I read this book solely because it was the pick of YA Book Club (http://www.thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/p/ya-book-club.html). I had heard of it prior to that but I didn't have any intention or interest in reading it for the sake of it. I read it and it was great! That's the point of book clubs - to read or find books you wouldn't normally read! It is New Adult.
Allyson Healey just graduated from high school and is traveling across Europe as part of a teen tour expedition that was given to her as a graduations present by her parents. Honestly, she is bored and is not enjoying her self as much. The one place she wanted to go to - Paris - had to be taken off the tour list because of a strike. At the last stop of the tour in Stratford-upon-Avon, Allyson and her best friend Melanie, aka Mel, meet Willem, tall, quirkly handsome, and Dutch. He convinces them to ditch going to see Hamlet performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company for an amateur performance of Twelfth Night by Guerrilla Will, a group of actors that perform free shows in the street for the masses. The next day, Allyson and Mel are on a train headed to London and coincidentally Willem is on the train too. He has a magnetic pull and lures Allyson to let go of her inhibitions and join him on a one day trip to Paris. Allyson becomes Lulu on this trip, an outgoing, fearless, and beautiful girl. The impromptu trip to Paris turns out to be the time of a lifetime, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up to find that Willem is gone. This pushes Allyson and comes back to the U.S. completely lost and transforms into a hermit overnight.
Her first year of college comes and she is still stuck in the tragedy of Paris, forgetting to revel in the college experience. Her friendships and family relationships falter and she is a shadows that moves along her college campus. Ironically, she registers for a Shakespeare class in an attempt to live a little and things turn for the better. She begins to make friends and she has something to look forward to. She has a sudden epiphany and realizes she must go back to Paris to find Willem and get closure. For the rest of her freshman year in college and the summer that follows, she prepares herself for the inevitable meeting with Willem. She transforms into the lively person she could be and gains independence from her pain. The day comes, she's in Paris, and she is looking for him. And for herself.
My expectations for this book were pretty low. I thought it was going to be about a corny heartbreak. It definitely superseded my expectations and turned out to be a coming of age story. It helped that I have never been to Paris, and it is the ONE place on earth I really, really want to see. As Allyson (or Lulu) starts taking risks again and decides to live a little, I took note. My roommate Ciara and I bought plane tickets on a whim...to Paris....for a 10-day trip! And, we are also visiting Amsterdam. For some reason, this book found a little part of me and made me live vicariously through Allyson while I was reading it. Maybe my perception of it is bias for this reason alone, but humor me.
As you are reading it, I will say that you have to take into account that this book focuses on Allyson and her struggle to find herself. Although the premise revolves around Willem, Forman keeps develops the plot Allyson alone. I'm sure you will want more info on Willem, but Forman doesn't provide all you want and keeps it aligned with Allyson's personal journey, which I appreciated after I finished it.
Give it a chance!
“Sometimes the best way to find out what you’re supposed to do is by doing the thing you’re not supposed to do.” - Gayle Forman, JUST ONE DAY