Oh my goodness. I have way too many Personal Feelings to make this a non-biased review, so watch out. First off, everyone who told me I'd like this bo...moreOh my goodness. I have way too many Personal Feelings to make this a non-biased review, so watch out. First off, everyone who told me I'd like this book was right. I'm even glad I read it after I went to Paris, because hey! Allyson too goes to Paris, *and* Utrecht, *and* Amsterdam! In the same order I did! And she too surprises herself by inviting herself along to things when she is feeling alone and wondering how people make friends in ALONE-alone situations. And most of all, I can identify with the Allyson/Lulu dichotomy: the appeal of a different, braver side to one's personality, especially first brought out by someone else.
I had a lot of Deep Adult Thoughts about this book that are, really, pretty unfair to put on a teen book. Teen books are written for teen readers about teen times, and teen times are, by their nature, big and swoopy and swoony, and not about thinking about things too hard because you just don't have a lot of context. (view spoiler)[ I mean, the ENTIRE HOOK of this book is that Allyson dropped her good-girl mantle and had a wild time in Paris, but did she ever. Hello, not knowing the guy or the language or having any currency or knowing the transportation system annnnnnd now we're having sex, and props to Gayle Forman for mentioning a condom and not having it be her first time, but good lord, people still get pregnant! The incident with the skinheads being all liberating to Allyson also bothered me, possibly because it seems she has not figured out (what I believe) that that is what happened to Willem the next morning, and also because this happened while I was in Paris and reading about her reaction made me judge her as even more naive and "I will take care of everything with looooooove, which I can recognize after just one day."
So, OK. I get that I can't criticize the entire hook of the book with my cautious, non-Lulu, ultra-adult, decidedly unsexy reactions, because then it would cease to be a book that people enjoy, and believe it or not, I really enjoyed this book. How's that for contradictory feelings? And I get that Allyson is *supposed* to be naive and her growth is part of the point. (Like I said, I'm projecting adult thoughts onto a teen book, much like Allyson's mom did onto her.) (hide spoiler)]
All spoilers and contradictory feelings aside, I guess I can appreciate what I feel this book does well, and is its central theme perhaps: "Maybe he never would have stopped me had I not had the Louise Brooks hair. Or maybe he would've, and we would've exchanged actual names. I'll never know. Once accidents happen, there's no backtracking."
Other favorite quotes:
"...being with Melanie makes me feel like I'm losing a race I didn't even know I'd entered."
"Because I may be only eighteen, but it already seems pretty obvious that the world is divided into two groups: the doers and the watchers."
"It seemed like there was a direct link between number of movies I'd seen about a city and the degree of my disappointment. And I've seen a lot of movies about Paris."
"See? You thought too hard. Same with travel. You can't work too much at it, or it feels like work. You have to surrender yourself to the chaos. To the accidents."
"I'm driving by them now too. But somehow, it feels different. Like, being here, outside, on the back of this bike, with the wind in my hair and the sounds singing in my ears and the centuries-old cobblestones rattling beneath my butt, I'm not missing anything. On the contrary, I'm inhaling it, consuming it, becoming it."
"He said that earlier, about accidents, about never knowing which one is just a kink in the road and which one is a fork, about never knowing your life is changing until it's already happened."
"It has to do with Paris, but more than that, it has to do with the person who brought me here. And with the person he allowed me to become here."
"...that whole day, being with Willem, being Lulu, it made me realize that all my life I've been living in a small, square room, with no windows and no doors. And I was fine. I was happy, even. I thought. Then someone came along and showed me there was a door in the room. One that I'd never even seen before. Then he opened it for me. Held my hand as I walked through it. And for one perfect day, I was on the other side. I was somewhere else. Someone else. And then he was gone, and I was thrown back into my little room. And now, no matter what I do, I can't seem to find that door."
"...it strikes me that if I didn't already know her, she would no longer be somebody that I would know."
"My life feels so small it itches, like a too-tight wool sweater."
"It happens when I stumble into the arrivals hall of the Charles de Gaulle airport. All around me, other passengers are being greeted by hugging relatives or drivers with signs. I'm not being met by anyone. No one is expecting me. No one is watching out for me. I know I have people out there in the world who love me, but right now, I've never felt so alone. I feel that flashing sign click on over my head, the one that used to read TOURIST. Only now it also reads WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"
"It seems incredibly presumptuous to invite myself, the kind of thing I would never do."
"And at this point, I really have no right to be surprised by people's capacity for kindness and generosity, but still, I am. I'm floored every time."
The rhyming verse (amazingly, unbelievably crafted) was at first hard to read, and then grew on me. Certain scenes really stick out after reading.
"She...moreThe rhyming verse (amazingly, unbelievably crafted) was at first hard to read, and then grew on me. Certain scenes really stick out after reading.
"She sat on the porch with her thousand-yard stare And spent each day parked in her old wicker chair. The yard a brown painting of motionless calm The packed, ochre dirt and the lone, scraggly palm. No sway to its fronds nor the measly dry grasses, Immobile and baking in air like molasses." -p. 20
"Amethyst asters on brown banks of peat, Aloes with leaves thick and fleshy as meat. Beryl-eyed lions and gray monkeys who so Resembled the creatures of Le Douanier Rousseau. Succulents' paddles and dew-heavy fronds, Tourmaline fish swam through indigo ponds, Ivies that twined with a grip near prehensile... All sprang alive from the tip of Cliff's pencil." -p. 25-26
"But dreams scream as loud, whether thriving or dying And Helen despite herself never stopped trying" -p. 48
"[He] credited most of that to his dear city, He lived the reverse of what plagued Walter Mitty No secrets, no longing, no desperate hoping Just reach out and grab from a world cracked wide open." -p. 59
"all this goodbye without going away" "the flip side of love is indifference, not hate" -p. 103(less)
One of those beautiful books where the words are as exquisite as the pictures. A lovely winter lullaby that would pair well with The Snowman or The Qu...moreOne of those beautiful books where the words are as exquisite as the pictures. A lovely winter lullaby that would pair well with The Snowman or The Quiet Book.(less)
Kadir Nelson's artwork is always stunning, though I think his artwork with people is slightly stronger. I love the glowing blue/yellow combos in the n...moreKadir Nelson's artwork is always stunning, though I think his artwork with people is slightly stronger. I love the glowing blue/yellow combos in the night scenes here. Story-wise, I was a little less sure what was happening. (view spoiler)[ I may be too literal, but I wanted to know why the owl declared his love, and whether all the animals were to be viewed as one big comforting family when the frog was "busy" and the salmon asked not to be eaten before offering help. (hide spoiler)]
"When I am lost I hug a tree and think of home."["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I absolutely love (LOVE) Mark Gonyea's nonfiction books for kids about graphic design, and this book started off as a suspenseful participation book,...moreI absolutely love (LOVE) Mark Gonyea's nonfiction books for kids about graphic design, and this book started off as a suspenseful participation book, but the ending fell flat for me. I haven't tried it on a group, though. Wish the format wasn't so small for group sharing, and the color scheme wasn't so overtly Halloween, for more general box-themed programming. (less)
No one appreciates Andrew Henry's inventions at home, so he builds his own house in a distant meadow -- a move which soon attracts other misunderstood...moreNo one appreciates Andrew Henry's inventions at home, so he builds his own house in a distant meadow -- a move which soon attracts other misunderstood, artistic kids. This 2012 reprint of a 1965 classic has some thematic and stylistic echoes with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.(less)
Baby Bear goes on the run in this oversized, highly-detailed book. The seek-and-find aspect and delightfully detailed, infinitely varied wordless vign...moreBaby Bear goes on the run in this oversized, highly-detailed book. The seek-and-find aspect and delightfully detailed, infinitely varied wordless vignettes make this perfect for one-on-one sharing, but the story is actually hilarious and would work well as a readaloud if the group was small enough. Benjamin Chaud lives in the South of France. (less)