Author: Gayle Forman
Released: August 20, 2013
Published by: Speak
Read: October 2013
Reread: April 2016
The Hook: The dust jacket. Not the cover, but the small little . . . hook on the inside of the cover. You know what I’m talking about.
That little hook read:
When sheltered American good girl Allyson first encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem at an underground performance of Twelfth Night, there’s an undeniable spark. So when fate brings them together a second time, Allyson takes an uncharacteristic leap, changes course, and follows Willem to Paris. After just one day together, the spark bursts into a flame . . . until Allyson wakes up after a whirlwind day shocked to discover that Willem is gone.
A life upended in one day turns into a year of self-discovery as Allyson embarks on a journey to break free from a lifetime of limits in order to find her true passions, and maybe even a true love.
Okay, so after typing that out, it could be the pull of Shakespeare, because I truly love anything Shakespeare. But I think it was everything about that hook.
“How sheltered is this Allyson?”
“What say this about true love?”
“Is it really love?”
“Why a second meeting? Why not the first?”
Seriously, I have to see how Shakespeare plays into all this.
So, I’m not sure if a summary is needed with that hook, but . . . yeah, let me go ahead anyway. Allyson is on one of those summer school programs where they take you on a 1-2 week trip to Europe. Allyson’s best friend is kind of the wild side and is always nagging her about her “good girl” status. Allyson just likes to follow the rules. That all changes when she’s intrigued by a flyer saying “Guerrilla Will” and a small flirtation by this boy who seems to pick up on Allyson’s thoughts about Shakespeare and starving artists and such. She ditches Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company to catch Twelfth Night outdoors at the Canal Basin, dragging her best friend with her.
The play ends. The magic dissipates. Allyson and best friend go back to their hotel to pack for their trip back home.
Fate intervenes. On the train back to London, she ends up seeing that boy again. They strike up a conversation about hagelslag. She learns his name is Willem, he ends up calling her Lulu, and when the train stops in London they are about to part ways, again, when Allyson mentions her disappointment in missing Paris. Willem encourages her to just go. Of course, Allyson can’t possibly imagine breaking the rules, the good girl who likes to follow the rules. But it’s Paris. And she missed it. And it’s fate. They weren’t suppose to have this second meeting. And yet they did. And with Willem volunteering to show her Paris, Allyson decides to break the rules again. They take the next train to Paris, with Allyson begging her best friend to cover for her, for just one day.
And the magic is back. Lulu and Willem have a very memorable time Paris. Filled with truths they couldn’t share with anyone else. With stories they don’t share with anyone else. Creating memories that no one else will understand. And they have one magical night. Then the sunrises. Willem is gone. Lulu is alone. The magic dissipates. And the rest of the year begins. College. Life. And memories of the magic of just one day.
And it’s a rough time for Allyson … for Lulu. After experience Paris with someone who seemed to be on the same frequency as her. Someone who sees under Allyson the Good Girl. Someone who sees Lulu, the dreamer, the adventurer. She was allowed to be something she never thought she could. College is rough. She meets a new best friend, Dee. Her other best friend just … well, they drifted apart. This best friend, Dee, asks her a question that gets her thinking differently about that one day. And suddenly . . . a what if?
We all know that story. A one-night stand gone badly. In this case, badly in a foreign country with someone who is practically stranger. And as easy as it is to just leave it at that and call the story a bad egg or call foul and cough it up to another unrealistic story about first loves, or true loves, or whatever kind of loves, it struck me in a different way.
I mean, why do we read? Why do I read? I read to take a break from reality. So if the fictional story I’m reading just so happens to mention true love or first loves or whatever kind of loves and it seems to take place in the course of a few hours, then so be it. It’s a story, not a memoir. And I’m a skeptic when it comes to those kinds of loves. Or maybe love period. But I am a skeptic. But only for me. Only for my perspective. That doesn’t mean I can’t believe it for others. So, if this fictional story is about those kinds of love, so be it.
And, boy, how I love this story. The summary I supplied doesn’t go into Allyson’s journey after Paris, but it’s a rough one. But it Ms. Forman did a great job building this story. The day in Paris. The life after Paris. Allyson. Her journey. She paced it well. And I love how it ended.
I can relate to Allyson. I know what it’s like to try and live by the rules. I don’t like to venture too far from rules because, well, I don’t like conflicts. So, I can relate to Allyson. And I can see why she ran away to Paris with a stranger. I may have done the same thing. Not carelessly, of course. And I don’t think Allyson was careless about it either.
And while we don’t get a good feel of whether Willem is a jerk or not, he doesn’t hurt her. He just . . . disappears. So, what happened? We can’t know for sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was no where to be found. I can understand that pain that Allyson felt. The embarrassment. Ms. Forman does a good job capturing that feeling, these moments, dotted throughout Allyson’s journey.
While the story doesn’t get into the details of sex, it is implied so just a heads up for anyone who wants to steer clear of this. But I highly recommend it if that doesn’t bother you too much because it is a good story.
And what I absolutely love about this story is this:
Allyson: “Not everything tracks back to Shakespeare.”
Dee: “Yes it does. Did you ever think what might’ve happened if they weren’t so damn impatient? If maybe Romeo had stopped for a second and gotten a doctor, or waited for Juliet to wake up? Not jumped to conclusions and gone and poisoned himself thinking she was dead when she was just sleeping?”
I love it. Because I asked the same thing with my first read through of Romeo and Juliet. And then:
I enumerate all the examples of him being a player, beginning with the fact that he picked up a random girl on a train and, an hour later, invited her to Paris for the day.
“Normal people don’t do that,” I say.
“Who said anything about normal? And maybe you weren’t random. Maybe you were something to him too.”
Because it’s a story. About first loves and true loves and whatever kind of loves. And Shakespeare. And possibilities. And, because it’s a story about first loves and true loves and whatever kind of loves.