I’m a sucker for a good love story. I really am. Every since my partner brought home “If I Stay” from Redbox, I’ve instantly been a Gayle Forman fan as well. Although I haven’t found all of her stories to be the best thing I’ve ever read, they’re enjoyable and usually have a good romantic element.
I read Just One Day, Just One Year, and Just One Night over the past week, which means I’ve now read all of Gayle Forman’s YA novels. In all of her novels there’s some aspect of romance, and they all seem to be coming of age tales. (But hey – what YA novel isn’t a coming of age tale in some way.) Just One Day covers the story of Allyson or “Lulu” and Willem, college age youth, who meet randomly and spend a magical day in Paris only to be separated. It then follows Allyson as she comes to grips with that day and herself. Just One Year follows Willem where he looks for the mysterious girl “Lulu” who he left and tries to repair his broken relationships and come to grips with his family. Just One Night is the culmination of these two novels, when Willem and Allyson are reunited.
Now that I’ve gotten that short synopsis out of the way, on to the real topic of conversation today – love in entertainment. As someone who is currently in a relationship, but has spent most of my adult life single, I’ve found love and how to find a frequent topic of conversation. From Beyonce’s new docu-video “Lemonade” to the pleathora of dating “Bachelor”-esq dating shows, entertainment attempts to show us how to be in love and have relationships. In Forman’s novels love always propels the protagonist into a coming of age story where the love interest is essential to opening up the door for self-discovery. What I appreciate about this narrative is that there is self-discovery; it’s not just about the love. Forman writes complex characters who have hopes and dreams, fears and tribulations. These characters are brought alive by those who they love, but it’s not in an overt way, which I appreciation. However, I do find discomfort on what that tells us (or more specifically younger readers) about love and what it does to you.
So maybe I’m cynical and not looking for the best out of love, but I’m not so sure that love usually opens up the avenue for self-discover or self-reflection. This is partly a reflection on my own relationships and love, but I think that love is more often than not a trial. Being a fiercely independent person, it’s sometimes hard for me to successfully blend my life with another human’s. It’s hard work to figure out how to live with another person, where you’ll each go to college; who’s job search is more important; what city or town will you try to reside in; and a million more things that are supposed to be easy. I find it hopeful and ebullient to see this young characters find their love support them through the most difficult times (I mean….in Sisters in Sanity, she’s literally in some sort of psychiatric prison), but sometimes it just seems like an unrealistic example of how a relationship goes. I won’t even touch on the point that these are teenagers having these relationships. Sometimes when I come home from work, it’s hard for my partner to even understand the type of day I had, let alone rearrange his entire life to support a whim of mine (major or minor).
While I think Forman does a tip-top job making these contemporary romances have some meat to them, I still think that it’s a little shallow on showing the challenges of real relationships and their effects on the couple. Love is hard. Love when you’ve known someone for a long time is hard. Love when you first meet someone and you don’t live in the same state is hard. I wish that I read more YA books that had that message, because I think it’s a message that young adults really do need to learn.
As I wrap up this long post/rant, I encourage you to pick up a Gayle Forman book. Each story has it’s own twist, and hopefully your heart will be warmed as you follow the characters discovering themselves. And she writes awesome dialogue.
Until Next Time World…