Just One Day by Gayle Forman
If you read Forman's If I Stay and its sequel Where She Went then you know that she covers growing pains in a very realistic and, sometimes, heartbreaking way. Just One Day is no exception.
Allyson Healey has her life mapped out for her by her parents, down to the trip to Europe she'll be taking the summer before she starts college. I know, sounds like a nice deal if you can get it. Allyson, left to her own devices, isn't nearly as sure of what she wants as she is of what's expected of her. At some point, those tethers start to constrict and our girl starts to rebel.
While in England, obedient Allyson sneaks away from her tour group to avoid seeing another official Shakespeare play, to catch a performance of a Guerilla Shakespeare troupe performing The Twelfth Night on the street. There she falls for the handsome lead actor, Willem De Ruiter. When Will asks her to come spend her last day of the trip with him in Paris. Not wanting the excitement to end she takes him up on his offer.
Because Allyson is a good girl, and not used to living spontaneously, she is constantly worrying that Will is going to rob her or ditch her or possibly worse. The day and night she spends with Will are amazing and unlike anything she's ever done before. There's romance and action and adventure and a few pretty good scares that come with being a stranger in a strange land. She wakes the next morning to find Will gone, panics and manages to get back home.
She gets sent off to college where she is so messed up from the experience that she is incapable of settling in to life with her new room mates. While this may sound like just too much adolescent drama, it is incredibly real when you read it. She's separated from her lifelong best friend, still reeling from this one day that shook her whole world. She is lost, she knows she doesn't want to follow the path she's intended to follow, but isn't sure how to find what she wants and get it. She's surrounded by strangers, unsure of who to trust, how she fits in, who she wants to be and even how to explain what she's been through. That's an awful lot to heap onto an 18 year old girl, living away from home for the first time.
I think there are plenty of young women who can relate to Allyson. Their experiences may not be as privileged as some of hers, but the emotions and questions and struggle to come to terms with adventures that leave you reeling are universal. Her struggle for answers and to find her own path and settle into the next chapter of her life make for a very realistic and self-affirming read.