Series: Just One Day #1
Published by Dutton Children's Books on 8th January 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 368 (Paperback)
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A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay
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.
Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!
I’m really starting to think I need to spend more time in the Contemporary genre. While I’m there I might as well finally read If I Stay and Where She Went. Yes, I can’t believe I haven’t read them yet either. No, I’m not sure what my malfunction is. But what I am sure of is how happy I am to have finally read a Gayle Forman novel. Just One Day came complete with a charming cast of characters, Parisian backdrop and such a relatable coming of age story.
Right from the start I knew I would love this book. Allyson reminds me so much of my younger self. She’s unsure of herself, follows the rules to the T, is more focused on the approval of other around her verses what she wants, etc. I’m sure we could all relate to feeling that way at one point in our lives and that’s what made this book real for me. While Allyson is traveling Europe with her teen tour group, she stumbles across Willem, who seems to be the opposite of herself. So for just one day, Allyson decides take a few chances, takes up the alter ego “Lulu” and becomes the spontaneous traveler.
I totally get that. Sometimes you just want to take a page from Nike and JUST DO IT. Even still today, I get those urges of just letting go and let live. But then, the next thing I know things have gotten so widely out of control.
And soon after, I’m once again craving my comfort box.
But enough about me…
What I loved about Just One Day is how Allyson both loses herself that day in Paris and later finds herself over the course of a year afterwards. When all is said and done and she has to resume her life after being left by Willem, she’s broken, a mere shadow of who she thought she was. I think it was there that I truly started to connect with Allyson on a deeper level. Here we have a former honor student struggling to get by in her college courses, struggling to keep former relationships intact and struggling at making new ones. What I found most interesting is that it’s not her relationship with Willem that metaphorically heals her, but the secondary characters she meets at college. How often do we read in YA novels the male heart-throb being the catalyst for change in the heroine? Too often, in my opinion. Allyson’s change is gradual and is due to various people and experiences, most of which have nothing to do with Willem. Ya know, pretty much how life is supposed to work.
I went into this story expecting some sort of fluffy romantic contemporary novel, but I guess I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. I suppose that’s what I get for being fashionably late to the Gayle Forman party. *dons her party hat* What I got was a novel that really examines that feeling of uncertainty of who we choose to be, how others perceive us, and how those two situations are sometimes mutually exclusive. The feeling of enlightenment I had with Just One Day was very similar to how I felt while reading Wanderlove, which also features a girl searching for answers, but ends up finding so much more.
Then, of course, you have the fantastic setting of Paris. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and one day I intend to. But while I was reading, it was so easy to visualize the french cafes, the old buildings, the culture. This is the second travel type novel I’ve read and it’s a wonderful change in scenery. High school angst vs. Europe. I think we know who wins that round.
If there is one thing I have to nitpick, it’d be the ending. Not that it was bad, but I think it has more to do with personal tastes. It’s also where I found myself conflicted. Right after finishing Just One Day, I felt I needed more, that I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending. I wanted her to find Willem and to figure out what happened. But on further reflection I realized something. This wasn’t about Willem. It was about Allyson finding herself. So clever, Forman. But I still want to know what happens after that door opens. So, I think it goes without saying that I’ll be needing Just One Year. Heh.
I love novels that take me away from the usual and make me think. Just One Day was just what I needed. Refreshing, humorous and deep.
ARC was received from the publisher for and honest review. Thank you, PenguinTeen!
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