Title: Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Published: January 8th, 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
Grade rate: A+
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.
I wish there were words to express how outstandingly-awesome this book is. I know that the year has barely started and it might be premature to say that this is the best book of 2013, but I can safely say that it is one of the best books that I’ve ever read and that it will remain a favorite for years to come. You might think that I’m exaggerating, but I truly fell in love with the story and the characters, I hope you do too.
I put Just One Day on hold at my local library at the beginning of the year and was pleasantly surprised when I was notified that it was waiting for me. I proceeded to devour the book as fast as I could. What an amazing journey it has been! Just One Day is many things rolled into one; it is a romance, a tale of self-discovery and a journal of an incredible ‘road trip’. Allyson is infuriating at times because she is full of doubts and insecurities, but this is due to her upbringing (more about that later). In trying to please her mother and be the best daughter she could be, she forgot who she was and how to be happy. Her encounter, her time with Willem was brief but it had a profound effect on her life. At first I was really upset that she seemed to listen to everyone else’s advice and opinions instead of following her heart and forming her own opinions. As I said, all the angst and even the depression that she went through were necessary for her to really see what her life had become and how to fix it. I was immensely happy that Allyson grows so much in the span of a year. At the end she became “Lulu”, a more confident and carefree person. I think I see a little bit of my 18-year-old myself in Allyson.
Willem deserves his own paragraph. Although Just One Day is Allyson’s story, we get the gift of knowing Willem for one day, which of course is not enough (don’t worry, we get a whole book from Willem’s POV soon!). Willem’s philosophy about life and accidents resonates with me and with Allyson; the biggest problem is that he was so carefree that it made it nearly impossible for them to find each other after their one day together. Even though all the evidence pointed to a deceitful young man, I just couldn’t reconcile Willem with that image and was quite upset that Allyson believed the worst so easily. Oh, and we share a mutual love for Nutella!
On to Allyson’s parents and more specifically her overbearing mother. Now, I’m a mother of three and my aspiration in that difficult role is to raise my boys to be independent, self-sufficient, honest, happy, and ambitious individuals. The goal is to prepare them to choose their own path equipped with the best tools I can provide for them. However, this is not the case with Allyson’s mom. She leaves no room for guessing, for exploration, for individualism at all, therefore, poor Allyson doesn’t know how to do anything for herself. That, people is a tragedy!
I adore Dee, the first friend that Allyson ever made on her own because he is not afraid to be who he is and he opened his heart to Allyson. I didn’t care much for Melanie, I think she encouraged Allyson to be stagnant on her growth, when she spend a lot of time finding herself. We meet many memorable characters through Allyson’s journey that are good, bad, gentle, wise, and more.
From having read If I Stay (although Where She Went is still waiting on my shelved to be picked up), I knew that any book from Gayle Forman was destined to be amazing and I was not disappointed, if anything she surpassed my expectations. The story is simple, a couple meets and travels to Paris for just one day, they separate after an unexpected event (not yet totally explained) and the girl spends a year dealing with the consequences of the encounter, and later trying to find said boy. Oh, but the story is so much more. The writing is exquisite, lyrical and picturesque. The settings go from Pennsylvania, to New York, Boston, Paris, Amsterdam, and England and each place was amazing, especially Paris.
Overall, Just One Day is an outstanding story, I hope you love it as I did and accompany me in the wait for Just One Year, Willem’s story due out in October of this year.
Here are some quotes: (they might be a bit spilery, so read at your own risk)
“It’s something that never comes off, no matter how much you might want to” [Willem describing what love is]
“When he finally kisses my mouth, everything goes oddly quiet, like the moment of silence between lighting and thunder. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four Mississippi. Five Mississippi.
Bang.” – Allyson
“… that whole day, being with William, being Lulu, it made me realize that all my life I’ve been living in a small, square room, with no windows and no doors. Then someone came along and showed me there was a door in the room. One that I’d never even seen before. Then he open it more me. ..” – Allyson
“No it doesn’t. You’re just trying on different identities, like everyone in those Shakespeare plays. And the people we pretend at, they’re already in us. That’s why we pretend them in the first place” – Dee talking to Allyson
About the cover: The cover is gorgeous! The back cover has a sidewalk with little tables and chairs, charming.
Have you read Just One Day? What did you think? Do you like 'road trip' books? How about contemporaries?