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.
I am absolutely in love with this story.
The book begins with Allyson on one of those cultural educational tours of Europe. Let me tell you, I’ve been on a couple tours and my experiences don’t even come CLOSE to Allyson’s!
(Yeah, that’s a little jealousy you detect.)
She and Willem may only know each other one day–just one day–but even so, it’s not the insta-love I find myself stumbling across in books where I question the validity of said love. It’s not the kind of love where the second they see each other worlds collide and the heavens open.
This is different, deeper. As unrealistic as the circumstances seem, it’s still more real.
I am a complete and TOTAL sucker for love stories, yes. Yet there is a whole lot more to this book than just Allyson’s interaction with Willem, because–I’ll say it once again–we only get ONE DAY of them together. The whole rest of the book is spent following Allyson’s life through the year after the day Willem left her.
But did he really leave her? What really happened?
Usually I get a little frustrated when there isn’t more direct romance in a book. I mean, throughout the one year all we have is the memory of the one day. And yet, surprisingly, I still absolutely LOVE this story. We’re with Allyson when she’s depressed and struggling, but we get to watch her break through and change her life and take charge of her future. It’s empowering to read, really.
This is a love story for the ages, and even more than that it’s a story of self discovery and independence and growing into yourself. A lot about identity, and what it means to be you. The story opens with Allyson referencing Shakespeare, asking this:
“What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?”
If you’re pretending to be someone, is it really a facade? Or is that facade just another part of who you are, buried deep inside? This book brought a lot of questions to mind about how I am, and I’m still thinking it over.
Also, that ending just about KILLED me. There better be more to it than that when I read Just One Year! (I think I actually squealed when I flipped the page and that was the end.)
I’ll say it again: I LOVE this story, and I can’t wait to read Just One Year.