Ah, traveling. You are always absolutely at the right age for it. But
let's face it -- sometimes, you go traveling and you're not entirely sure
if you're "good" at it. Enter sheltered Jewish-American, introverted good
girl Allyson, traveling Europe with a group of other high school seniors.
It should be an excellent time for an 18-year-old girl about to embark upon
her college years when she gets back home. But Allyson isn't actually
having fun. She's doing her best to make everything "worth it", but it's
difficult when it feels like she's on this trip to keep her parents
Everything changes when she goes to an underground performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in London, where she meets the handsome Willem, and sparks fly. Taking a huge leap of faith, Allyson becomes "Lulu" and does things she'd never do as Allyson -- including going off to Paris with Willem for one day. In what becomes the most perfect day of her life, everything works out for best...except for the part where she wakes up the next morning and Willem is gone, leaving her alone in Paris. She spends the next year feeling listless, and her once-excellent grades take the hit. Eventually, she finds that to mend the hole in her heart, she must return to Paris to break free of the shackles of her scripted life. She goes back looking for Willem, but in the end, as cheesy as it is, she finds herself. A surprisingly excellent bildungsroman showing a different type of growth that many of the quiet young adults could be afraid of, this is something I'd recommend to those traveling or studying abroad and are unsure if they're doing the right thing. (John Green himself recommended this, so if you don't believe me, believe him!)
To be followed by Just One Year, detailing Willem's events after he and Allyson are separated. And I am so excited that I want to cry.
--Reviewed by Robbin of Compass Books in SFO Terminal 2.