The title is from a Gertrude Stein Quote: "When you get there, there is no there, there." Books are my favorite form of escapism and the book that can keep me up late at night against reason and sense is a rare and beautiful thing. I like reading because it is a peek into someone's inner life and inner monologue. Whether books want to or not, they are teaching us something about the author's view of what it means to be a woman or person or be in love or be alive. The books that are popular are a commentary on what we value as a society.
Gayle Forman has yet to disappoint me. I find myself much less interested in what happens as whom it happens to. This author has a real gift for creating well-rounded, believable characters. In a short time, I get to know her characters really well. How long did we spend with Babs? Or Wren? Or Dee? And yet these minor characters are as vivid (sometimes more vivid) than main characters I've spent an entire series with. And this is because Gayle Forman writes characters, not vessels that the reader just injects themselves into. This technique makes it very frustrating when a character makes a decision I would not make. This character is supposed to be me, but I'm not that stupid! When Allyson frustrated me (or her mother, or Melanie, or Celine, etc.) I at least knew why she was choosing what she chose. Because she is her own character. Forman has given me enough background to understand Allyon's thought process and appreciate her feelings.
I'm also deeply impressed by Allyson's character evolution. I've read books where the author tries to show her character has evolved and changed based on her experiences, but it feels sudden; out of place; forced. I hate that. Nothing about Allyson felt forced. She still failed. She backed down. but we could sense her growing resistance and frustration, so when she finally spoke out against her mother (not, perhaps, in the most tactful way, but definitely in an understandable way) it felt so right. Her actions had been building over the course of the novel. Forman laid solid foundation for Allyon's evolution.
While I'm a sucker for romance, it made me so happy that the focus of the book was on self-discovery. Sure, the catalyst was that day in Paris with Willem, but Allyson was very aware throughout the novel that she was very much searching for Lulu; she was searching for herself. Maybe it's because that's the place I'm in my life. I have this really deep urge to get out, go away, see what's out there. I deeply desire to travel by myself and therefore have a deeper understanding of myself. I found that very satisfying in this novel. (Sidenote: in many ways this novel makes me think of The Alchemist- listening to the universe! You will fave adversity, but the universe will give you the signs and nudges and help to make your dreams come true! But you need to be willing to put in the effort and pay the consequences.)
I am so glad I read this book now and not a few months ago. I'm not sure I could wait that long for the sequel. As it is I am waiting impatiently for the library to present me with a borrowed copy! My guess: Willem had another run-in with the skinheads.