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Friday, May 3, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman

Release Date: 8th January 2013

My Rating: 5/5

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

In A Nutshell:
I loved Just One Day. A lot can happen in one day. It can change your life and it does just that for eighteen-year-old Allyson. It was absolutely amazing to see the transformation she goes through over the course of a year, following her one day. How Allyson deals with depression, love, loss, friendships, family, college and parental expectations is nothing short of a pleasure to read.

My Review:
The basis of Just One Day is the idea that anything can happen in one day. While I started the book thinking it was about how you can fall in love in a day, I now believe that is just an undercurrent and that more so, in a day, your whole life can be set on a different course.

After a random, whirlwind meeting and adventure with Dutch amateur theatre actor Willem, eighteen-year-old Allyson is devastated by the way their day in Paris turns out. Returning to the US in a depressed funk, Allyson can’t seem to get her life back on track; her best friend Melanie can’t understand why she can’t just get over it, her uninformed parents can’t understand the changes in her personality, and her new college roommates don’t know what to think of her. It’s always difficult for people to understand what someone is going through unless they have experienced something similar as they can’t comprehend the need for closure. But for Allyson, it’s far more than some smooth guy using and ditching her. While she was with him, she got a taste of who the real Allyson is; the Allyson she hasn’t allowed herself to discover in order to keep everyone around her happy. Now that she has ‘met’ her, she can’t just go back to the life her parents’ mapped-out for her.

I loved Just One Day. It was absolutely amazing to see the transformation that Allyson goes through and how she deals with depression, love, loss, friendships, family, college and expectations. Now don’t get me wrong, I was intrigued by Willem’s character and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though my ‘spidey-sense’ was telling me he was a player, just as Allyson’s self-doubt made her think he couldn’t actually like her. But like Allyson, I pushed it away, choosing to focus on the positive signs rather than the negative ones. And hey, their time in the artist squat was hot as. But their story went in a different direction. No matter how short their time together was, and no matter how it ended, Allyson made a profound connection in that time, whether with Willem or herself, it doesn’t matter, because the pain is real and the loss is felt.

Back in the US, Allyson wallows in a self-pitying depression. She feels empty as though something, or someone, is missing from her life. The realisation comes slowly, that it is not just the beautiful boy she is mourning, but her identity. To rediscover the person she was in Paris means Allyson has to change the way her life is now. She knows she will be disappointing her parents but if the medical school route they planned for her means forgoing her own happiness, then what is the point of living if only to be miserable the entire time?

As she slowly begins to rediscover herself, she branches out: taking chances, changing the course her life has been put on and, much to her bewilderment, makes some unlikely new friends. Her search for the answers about what really happened with Willem leads her to a Shakespeare class, a café job, French lessons, and then once again, Europe, where the new Allyson takes challenges in her stride.

The people Allyson meets along her journey are so completely endearing. Her Shakespeare study buddy Dee, the enthusiastic and genuine bartender Modou, her fellow travellers, and the zesty but somewhat wounded Wren, who was probably my favourite supporting character of them all. And I really liked the way Forman portrayed the friendship between Allyson and her childhood friend Melanie. It’s good to recognise that people change and that through no fault of either party, they grow apart. They can be going through different things in their lives and while some friendships will last, others will just naturally fizzle out. But with relinquishing old friendships also comes new and amazing ones and Allyson’s happiness and enthusiasm coincides with these.

I’d like to do a quick shout-out to some of the locations featured in the book. Excluding Mexico and Florida, it is set in Boston, Paris, London and Amsterdam, and since I have been to all of them, I know that Forman really captured the essence of the cities. I think that any reader, either well-travelled or not, can absolutely connect with the feelings and anticipations that Allyson has while travelling to each place. Her travels brought back my memories of visiting these cities for the first time, and then the jolt of familiarity I had upon returning and recognising places, just as Allyson has when she returns to Paris.

It will be very interesting to see how our assumptions of Willem play out in Just One Year, as Forman presents us with Willem’s story starting from the fateful morning in Paris when everything goes wrong. At the ending of Just One Day, I am not the biggest fan of Willem’s, whereas I am so proud of Allyson and all that she experienced and challenged herself with in the year following her meeting with Willem. I am a massive fan of Where She Went, Adam’s story and the male point of view from Forman’s amazing If I Stay/Where She Went companion novels so I’m interested to see how I take to reading the year from Willem’s point of view.

Massive amounts of love and respect for this book. Love your work Gayle!


  1. I've had this on my shelf for a while now after buying a copy when it FIRST released. I still haven't read it but I really want to and hopefully I will soon. I've read a handful of reviews, all glowing, for Just One Day but yours is by far my favourite and makes me want to read it ASAP. To the top of the pile it goes! Amazing review, Jess :)

  2. Glad you loved this one :) Can't wait for the next one!

  3. I can't wait for Just One Year. I am looking forward to finding out what happened on that day to Willem, more about him and what's going to happen next!


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