by Gayle Forman
First sentence: “What if Shakespeare had it wrong?
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Review copy provided by my place of employment.
Allyson and her best friend Melanie have just recently graduated high school, and are off on a tour of Europe. You know the type: scheduled, regimented, seeing all the highlights tour. If it’s Wednesday, we must be in Rome type of thing. Allyson, being the structured-type girl herself, is enjoying it okay, in spite of Melanie’s attempts at a re-do. She keeps saying that in college they can reinvent themselves, but at the same time, loves that Allyson is so reliably… Allyson.
Then, they meet Willem. It was a fluke: when they were in Stratford-upon-Avon, they passed up the chance to see the Royal Shakespeare Company do Hamlet in favor of seeing a company called Guerrilla Will do Twelfth Night. And it was… something. Willem, 20 and Dutch, was charming, and Allyson fell, well, in like. And the next day when they met again on the train, she decided it was kismet, and decided on a whim to go to Paris with him. For the day.
Forman really works this implausibility. (Especially for me, as a mother of four girls, I was conflicted. Part of me was: YES, PARIS!! How romantic! And it was, really. The other part of me was screaming: NOOOOOOOO!!!!) It makes sense for Allyson in that moment to make that choice, to experiment with living a life that was something other than her same structured existence. And what better place to do it than Paris? She has a marvelous day, and then… Willem’s gone. She’s alone. “It” didn’t work.
So she packs off home and heads up to college, where she tries to move on with her life. Or rather, move on with the life that her mother has assigned to her. I realized while reading this one that a lot of my ideas on parenting teens have come from reading teen novels because I could totally see where things were going to go. Helicopter mom = disastrous first semester. It wasn’t until her second semester that Allyson began to figure out how to stand up for what she wanted, how to make friends, how to find her own path instead of the one her parents made for her.
And the end? Well, let’s just say it’s a hopeful one. I’m not sure how plausible it is, but by that point, I didn’t care. I was fully invested in Allyson’s story, in her trials and her hopes and dreams. Which Foreman made come alive for me.
Besides, it’s Paris. You can’t get any better than that.