Just One Day – Gayle Forman
You never know what you are going to find in the recesses of your computer files. A couple of days ago I was sorting through everything – deleting old documents, trying to figure out if I seriously needed to hold onto that one photo of a cat in a teacup (answer – yes) – and I found this review that I did before starting college. You can find my opinion below – I haven’t actually read the book since, but my review definitely brought back memories.
From the New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay
Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.
A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.
You know how there are some books that stay with you? This is absolutely one of them. Written by Gayle Forman (the author of the If I Stay series, which are also fantastic) Just One Day is a coming of age, a slow burn growth and exploration of youth and how events can change people’s lives. After meeting Willem on a train, Allyson makes the impulsive decision to spend the day with him in Paris. What happens next leads to an entire year of waiting and introspection.
This was definitely a hard book for me to review – even though it is one of my favourites. What exactly made me love it so much however? It follows a pretty standard plot device. However when I read it I was instantly sucked into Allyson’s world. Her confusion, her heartache, her hope. Maybe it’s because she’s so relatable – everyone can remember that feeling of helplessness before college and during. When you don’t know where you are going or why. It’s such a moving thing to watch Allyson grow into herself and accept the events of the day that changes her.
An interesting thing about this book is that I found the second part of the book much more emotional than the first. While the beginning is arguably more action packed (Day in Paris, etc) I thought that Allyson’s emotional story was far more relatable and touching. It was just so realistic – her struggle to become who she wants to be. And of course, by the end, I was on the metaphorical edge of my seat watching her track Willem down. But the great thing about this book is the open ending – we as readers follow Allyson’s story. We really don’t know Willem at all, which means that we can fill in his character and the end of their story.
While I would have loved to have had a more satisfying sequel (which is from Willem’s perspective and is so lackluster to me that it doesn’t merit a review) there is no doubt that Just One Day holds a special place in my heart. It’s a classic tale of growing up and falling in and out of love. I’m not arguing that this book is perfect however – Allyson has a tendency to look down on nearly every female character in the book, and it really irritated me in the beginning when she kept whining that the cities she was travelling around (London! Rome! Paris!) didn’t look like the movies. I was sitting there thinking: Um, OK, get over it. Apart from that however, I really truly love this book.
Y’know, reading this review, I was reminded of how nervous I was beginning school. The parts about reading her life in college really stuck with me apparently. Now that I’m nearly done with freshman year, i can completely identity with Allyson’s feelings of isolation and depression. I think college is such a time of downs and ups that her feelings are completely valid, and I know that I have definitely felt the same way at times. It’s such a reward when Allyson decides to go after what she wants, and I think Just One Day is more than the romance it’s advertised as. It’s a very powerful story of a young girl trying to figure out what she wants and going for it – who amongst us doesn’t want the same? I’m wondering what I’ll think the next time I pick up the book – I’ll be in the same place as she was (and how exciting is that!)