Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Published: January 2013
Genre: young adult, romance
When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem de Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
For three weeks, Allyson and her best friend experience a whirlwind tour of Europe for students post-high school graduation. Allyson is less than enthused with the results, and decides to take up Melanie’s challenge of breaking free from her monotonous routine: they ditch a Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of Hamlet for an underground street version of Twelfth Night. It is here that Allyson meets Willem, a Dutch actor who lives a nomadic life of “accidents.” And the next day, the two have their own “accident” when they run into each other on a train to London. Charmed by Willem’s spontaneity and eager to try something new, Allyson decides to run off to Paris with Willem for just one day. But the next morning, Willem is gone. Allyson thought Paris would be her only adventure, but it’s only just beginning.
I’m sure many people relate to Allyson. And I bet nearly all the raving reviews are about how much they are Allyson — the over-scheduled, straight-A, not-so-spontaneous, somewhat insecure, dependable, reliable good girl. And I am one of those reviewers. I am joining the masses.
Allyson tried so hard to break free from her parents’ expectations, to be who she believes herself to be, and her time with Willem showed her that she can live her life however she’d like, that she has the capability to make her own decisions. The fear and panic that would rise in her — whether it was when she got lost or when she jumped to conclusions about Willem — is exactly something I’d do. Her depression, empathy, and concern are very real gut reactions to major events that were positive at the time and later colored by some unseen force. She’s so real. And I think it’s because of Forman’s portrayal of Allyson that so many of us see ourselves in her.
That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shakespeare connections littered throughout. Either they’re blatant — like Allyson’s college class and her reading partner Dee’s remarks — or they’re subtle, helping the reader predict the outcome of the novel with themes and familiarity of Shakespeare’s plays. Even the characters showed growth, changing from one Shakespearean role to another as the novel progresses. It was so artistic, so fantastic, that I was excited to see more and more as Allyson’s quest solidified.
On a different note, this is what I’d imagine New Adult should be. Not the erotica stuff that litters the shelves, but college and post-college experiences that show the growth from dependent teenager to independent adult. Allyson is about to enter her first year of college, and we watch her as she rises in Europe, falls her first semester, finds her footing second semester, and lands on solid ground the following summer. That experience, right there, is so very real and true to the university lifestyle and self-identification.
I do not have the words to continue. This novel is near and dear to my heart. I’m itching to begin Just One Year (Willem’s point of view!). Trust me when I say that if you want the full human experience, this is it. I should not have to italicize one more word.