Just One Day by Gayle Forman

This is a beautiful, beautiful story. It so deftly captures that time of metamorphosis between your teen years and adulthood, the way your identity evolves in the span of a year, a month, or just one day. Every page of this book is filled with bittersweet yearning, vivid characters, and descriptions you want to crawl into and live inside.

Allyson Healey takes a trip to Europe before college, a prepackaged “experience” where her every waking moment is scheduled, itemized, and verified as educational. But she goes rogue in England and sneaks away to a street performance of Shakespeare. She encounters the tall, blond, and handsome Dutch actor Willem–and then, daringly, runs away with him to Paris.

On the train to Paris, Allyson’s past identity feels as itchy and confining as a too-small wool sweater. So she tosses it aside and becomes a girl befitting Willem’s name for her–Lulu, the kind of girl who explores unknown streets, lingers in cafes, and banters with strangers who feel like long-lost friends. As Lulu, she feels free to let each moment flow from the last, and feels herself falling in love with Paris, with travel, with Willem.

But they have just one day together. Just one day, and then she loses him.

She loses Lulu, too, becoming an Allyson who doesn’t remember how to fit into the cramped spaces of her former life. Should she find or forget Willem? Her decisions will forever change the way she finds herself.

I’m so glad I picked up this ARC at the PNBA tradeshow, with the one downside that I will have to wait even longer to read the forthcoming companion novel, Just One Year, written from Willem’s POV. In the meantime, I’m tempted to read Just One Day cover to cover again. Highly recommended.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I was, and still am, a rabid fan of Libba Bray’s Victorian fantasy trilogy starring the incomparable Gemma Doyle. The first book, A Great and Terrible Beauty, was to die for, the characters lovable, the magic exciting, the dialogue scintillating, the romance steamy.

But.

The Diviners is even better.

I was blown away by the world-building in this book. It’s a tour de force of 1920’s glitz and glamour, capturing the thrill and sparkle of flappers, radio serials, Ouija boards, gangsters, speakeasies, and the hubbub of New York City. Libba effortlessly captures the atmosphere and lingo. (Well, I’m sure it only looks effortless. As an author, I suspect countless hours of research were refined into this book.) I devoured so many delicious tidbits of 1920’s history while savoring the supernatural elements. It’s pos-i-tute-ly amazing.

I don’t want to spoil too much of The Diviners, since it’s a murder mystery, but I will say that I totally understand why movie rights were sold before the book even came out. The descriptions are big and beautiful, and the plot has a cinematic sweep of grandeur and glamour that won’t fade until long after you read the last page.

Review: ABANDON by Meg Cabot

 

I received an ARC of Abandon from the publisher, and was intrigued enough by the premise to dive in. It’s marketed as “the myth of Persephone… darkly reimagined.”

For those not familiar with the myth, Persephone is the daughter of Zeus, King of the Gods, and Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest. While Persephone is out in a meadow, picking flowers or something, a chasm splits the earth and out rides Hades, God of the Dead and King of the Underworld. He wants her to become his bride, so he abducts her and drags her down to the Underworld. While down in the Underworld, Hades tricks Persephone into doing what a living soul should never do in the Land of the Dead–eating some of the food. She swallows about five pomegranate seeds (it depends on the retelling), and these seeds force her to return to the Underworld for that many months out of the year. Her mother, Demeter, gets so upset each time that she makes the earth barren while her daughter is gone. Hence, the seasons.

Now, before you cry, “Spoilers!” and clap your hands over your eyes, Abandon most definitely reimagines this myth. That is, even if you know the myth inside and out, the book deviates far from that story and inserts metaphors of its own. Persephone, in this case, is Pierce Oliviera, the daughter of the short-tempered CEO of a huge corporation and a scientist/philanthropist obsessed with saving the habitat of the roseate spoonbill. Not exactly Zeus and Demeter, though now that I think about it, there are some subtle parallels. And yes, Pierce dies and comes back. But there’s no pomegranate, and Hades… well, we have tall, dark, and silver-eyed John Hayden, who spends a fair amount of the book being wild and mysterious.

While reading Abandon, I enjoyed my time on Isla Huesos, a lushly described island south of Florida with deathly secrets of its own, and kept wondering when we would know more about John’s past–most of his personality is mystery. The story intrigued me with its hints of bigger things to come, but when I got to the end, the bigger things still hadn’t come. It feels like the real story doesn’t start till book two. Sigh. I’ll be checking out the sequel, though I wish Abandon could have promised less and given more. Overall, a skillfully-written story with appeal for fans of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush.