Allyson Healey has lived her entire life in a neat little box mapped out by her parents. But during a European tour after high school graduation, she meets an actor named Willem. There’s instant attraction and Allyson is charmed. When Willem invites her to spend one day in Paris with him, she decides to be impulsive for once and agrees to accompany him instead of heading to London with her best friend.
That day in Paris is magical and Allyson learns to take life as it comes, to pounce on the chances that come her way. But after a night of sex, she wakes up to find herself alone. Devastated, Allyson returns to London to meet up with her friend, and from there to the U.S. where she heads off to college in the fall. What follows is a year of self-discovery and picking up the pieces after Allyson’s first attempt at seizing the day results in disaster.
Despite my best intentions to keep an open mind, I go into novels with expectations. If I Stay and Where She Went were so emotionally visceral and I suppose I expected more of that here. I didn’t really get it.
Maybe it was the pacing. The summer stint in Europe took up more than a third of the novel. That doesn’t leave much room for self-discovery. In truth, what happens is that Allyson spends half of her freshman year in college in a deep depression. She attempts to return to the box outlined for her but finds she no longer fits because she’s discovered the world the exists beyond it. This dissonance affects all aspects of her life. Her once-perfect grades plummet. Her friendships stumble and fail.
Of course, all that would have been fine within the context of a story if more weight had been given to the idea of self-discovery. Instead the shadow of Willem dominated everything. I just can’t get behind the portrayal of a one-night stand derailing someone’s life so badly. Yes, she was a teenager — an older one, true, but still a teenager. But even so, Allyson wasn’t a virgin. She’d had a boyfriend. Yes, she...
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