Sunday, July 8, 2018

Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker

Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker
Published March 2018 by Harper Collins

For fans of John Green, this funny and poignant coming-of-age story is about that crazy thing called love. And how it can be found anywhere.

Happiness (Happy) Glass has been a loner since moving to Brisbane and yet still dreams about living in Paris with her best friend Rosie after they finish Year Twelve. But Rosie hasn't been terribly reliable lately.

When Happy wins a French essay competition, her social life starts looking up. She meets the eccentric Professor Tanaka and her girl-gardener Alex who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome - an ailment that afflicts some visitors to Paris. Their quest for a cure gives Happy an excellent excuse to pursue a good-looking French tourism intern, also called Alex. To save confusion she names the boy Alex One and the girl Alex Two.

As Happy pursues her love of all things French, Alex Two introduces Happy to her xylophone-playing chickens whose languishing Facebook page Happy sponsors.

Who knew that Paris Syndrome was an actual 'thing'?  For someone who thinks they know everything (me), I am always surprised when I learn something new...which to be fair, is pretty much every day.  Here's what Wikipedia had to say:

Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or going on vacation to Paris, as a result of extreme shock derived from their discovery that Paris is not what they had expected it to be. The syndrome is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting.[1] Similar syndromes include Jerusalem syndrome and Stendhal syndrome. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock. It is particularly noted among Japanese travellers

I found this book equal parts funny and touching.  It had a light-hearted touch, while still dealing with more serious themes.  Happy is dealing with moving to a new city, being away from her friends, and the place where all of her fondest memories were made.  Her relationship with her father is tenuous, as he now has a new life with his new girlfriend, so she's working on that as well as trying to get her Mum out into the world of dating.

Then there's the question of Happy's sexuality.  She meets two Alex's, a boy and a girl.  She embarks on a relationship with Alex the boy, and a friendship with Alex the girl, only to realise that it's Alex the girl she's interested in romantically.   I thought that this aspect of the story was done so well, as it showed that we fall for a person, not a gender.  It actually comes as a real surprise to Happy that she has these feelings for Alex the girl. 

There's also a bombshell towards the end of the novel, where we learn exactly how much Happy is really coping with.

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