People will often speak of armchair travel, when they watch documentaries and movies that take them to far flung places across the globe. I had the every same experience last weekend, but I travelled with the help of fiction. One book was largely set in Paris and Amsterdam, while the other was set in West End, Montana just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Very different kind of novels, but each made me feel like I had been transported to another place. While a healthy bank balance is needed to ACTUALLY travel the world, it's nice to know that we can travel anywhere we want to without spending a cent (thank you public library).
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
One of my favourite movies of all time is Before Sunrise, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The story of strangers who meet on a train, and spend a night in Vienna getting to know each other, with the distinct possibility they will never see each other again. This book immediately made me think of that movie. The characters in this book, Allyson (she reinvents herself as Lulu when she meets Willem) and Willem meet on a train, and when they arrive in London, Lulu tells Willem that her biggest regret about her European jaunt ins that the Paris leg of the journey had been cancelled. So a spur of the moment decision sees Lulu leaving her friend behind, and travelling to Paris with Willem, where they will have Just One Day together before Lulu has to get back to London before heading home to the US.
In a book like this I choose to ignore the little things that bug me, like the fact that leaving her friend behind to lie for her probably wasn’t the nicest thing to do, and the fact that she’s only 18 and she has travelled to a strange country where she doesn’t speak he language with a boy she has known for five minutes (give or take a few hours)…so with that being said, I loved this book. How could I not, it’s set in Paris and the idea of spending one day in the most romantic city on earth getting to know a very cute Dutch boy seems like an OK way to pass the time to me.
Unlike the movie Before Sunrise, which was simply the story of one night, this book looks at the after effects of this one day. The story starts with the meeting of Allyson and Willem, but the main part of the story focuses on the year after, Allyson’s first year at college. She is most definitely Allyson again, and her alter ego Lulu seems like a distant memory. Now that she has had a glimpse of something extraordinary, her life doesn’t really seem very worthwhile. As the year progresses and Allyson still can’t seem to get comfortable in this new college life, she decides that the only thing to do is do go to Paris and try to find Willem. With only a first name, and a country of birth, she well and truly has her luck cut out for her.
I won't tell you how this journey ends for Allyson, but I can say that there is another book coming out later this year which tells Willem’s story, it will be called Just One Year.
In case you haven't figured out how you know the name Gayle Formen yet, she is the author of the super popular If I Stay and Where She Went.
Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me
Before reading this book, I did have a little knowledge on the fact that wolves had been re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park. This is a story of KJ Carson who live in West End Montana with her Father. The family business is hunting and fishing tours, so KJ has always been an outdoorsy girl. While she has always had a fascination with the wolves of Yellowstone, it’s not until Virgil and his mother (a scientist studying the wolves) come to town that she starts to take a greater interest. This is where the story takes a sideways step from being a run of the mill teenage novel, as it starts to look at the real issues faced by local ranchers because of the wolves. Yes, bringing back wolves is great for the eco system, but the livestock being killed is making it difficult for hardworking ranchers to make their living, and the town becomes divided into wolf lovers and wolf haters. Through the story we, as a reader, gets a real insight into the real debate that is happening in these areas regarding the wolves.
The main storyline revolves around the wolves, but there’s a lot more to this story too. KJs mother died when she was 3, and it has always been her and her Dad. Their relationship is interesting, in that he really pushes her to be a particular kind of person, but KJ is starting to think she might actually be a different person altogether. Then there’s Virgil, the first boy she has ever really felt at ease with, and even that doesn’t run smoothly as they have the wolf haters against them, and KJ’s Dad seems keen on Virgil’s Mum, it goes without saying that dating your possible step brother is just not the done thing.
I have loved both books by this author, ( I read Girl's Don't Fly last year) and I am disappointed that there aren’t anymore, because it’s rare to come across teenage fiction that deals with such interesting topics, but is also full of everyday teenage life, and that’s what makes them so readable and easy to relate to.
See the link below for more info on the Yellowstone wolves: