Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
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!
Like many other readers, I was a big fan of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went. It’s probably a bit hard to live up to my love of those books, so it’s not surprising that I didn’t love Just One Day as much, but that doesn’t mean that it was a bad book.
Things started out well for me. Allyson was an interesting character, a good girl who doesn’t seem so annoying and uptight about that “good girl status,” unlike some good girl protagonists I’ve dealt with in the past. She of course has a best friend who’s more outgoing and flamboyant than she is and she stumbles into trouble rather than actively looking for it, but I actually didn’t mind it too much. And once she begins her grand adventures through Paris with Willem, things really picked up and I was having fun along with them.
Things stumbled for me at the middle of the book. (This isn’t technically a spoiler, since the summary mentions it, but by the time I got to it I had already forgotten that it would happen, so I’m going to call it a slight spoiler anyway, just in case) After Allyson wakes up to find that Willem is gone, she started to frustrate me. We go through months with her as she pushes away everybody and basically pouts because she was abandoned and seem to be nothing more than a one night stand. Allyson had been pretty jealous during her day with Willem, but it was easy to ignore that when she was otherwise happy and the story was upbeat. When she was basically depressed and nearly dead to the rest of the world, her earlier negative personality points were harder to ignore. I desperately wanted to reach into the book and give her a good shake.
Once Allyson started to think for herself school-wise, met new friends, and slowly began to reengage with the rest of the world (albeit by searching for Willem and remaining obsessed over him, but it’s a start), though, things began to get better again. The characters around her interested me and I wanted Allyson to succeed again. By the time summer began and Allyson continued to be self-sufficient while trying to return to Paris, the book was completely back on track for me and I was completely interested in the story.
The ending, which seemed slightly ambiguous when it came to Allyson’s final act, at least for me, left me a little unsure. It looked like it was going in a direction I wanted it to, but depending on Allyson’s final motivation, the independence she had been building up the last hundred or so pages might have been pointless, but like I said, I’m not quite sure what she did. I’m hoping she decided to retain that independence, and hopefully we’ll find out for sure in the next book, companion Just One Year, which is from Willem’s point of view.
Well, despite the frustrating and slow middle portion of the book, this was another good book from the amazing Gayle Forman. I definitely plan on checking out the sequel, which will hopefully give great insight into Willem’s mind and will add to the story overall.