Publisher: Random House.
Paperback, 369 pages.
Release date: January 10th 2013.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
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.
"We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day." — Gayle Forman.
A beautifully written tale of self-discovery and self-acceptance, Just One Day by Gayle Forman takes its audience on a bittersweet journey with Allyson, a girl looking for answers, and Willem, the boy that she lost after just one day, and one night together in Paris.
For Allyson Healey life is all about following the rules, never stepping out of line, always sticking to a plan. At least that’s Allyson’s life as envisioned by her overbearing mother. Until now, Allyson has stuck to this path, never taking any detours, never having much fun, never really having a life. But at eighteen, Allyson is beginning to realize that there’s a whole lot more to life than her mothers well laid plans – which include buying all her clothes for her and choosing what subjects she’ll study at college. When Allyson embarks on a pre-college trip around Europe with her best friend Melanie, she has her eyes opened to all the possibilities that life has to offer, including cute boys. Well, one cute boy in particular. Meet free-spirited Dutch actor Willem who calls Allyson ‘Lulu’ and who changes the course of her life in just one day.
When Allyson and Willem bump into each other on a train to London the day after she has seen him act in an underground performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, electricity sparks between them. Willem comments on Allyson’s resemblance to the silent movie actress Louise Brooks, opting to call her ‘Lulu’ in reference to Brooks’ nickname, while Allyson is drawn to Willem’s sense of adventure and his Carpe Diem attitude to life. So enchanted by the Dutch actor is she, that when Willem offers to accompany her to Paris on an impromptu day trip, Allyson accepts without hesitation. This is wholly out of character for Allyson, but you know there is something about boys like Willem that can make girls act in very unexpected ways. It’s that spirit of adventure, the sense of boundless freedom, of endless possibilities that seems to emanate from their very pores. Intoxicating stuff. And Allyson can’t resist.
It’s a testament to Forman’s writing that while I mainly don’t see eye-to-eye with her female characters, her books are amongst my favourites. I say this because I’m the kind of reader who generally needs to connect with characters to glean enjoyment from their stories, but just like Mia in Where She Went, Allyson is not someone with whom I share a great deal of common ground. I guess I didn’t really get why Willem was so drawn to her, and I really didn’t get why he compared her to Louise Brooks. So maybe it was just a looks thing, but as a character Allyson is the exact opposite of the adventurous, outspoken Lulu Brooks. And maybe that’s the point, because it goes to show that while Allyson and Willem have a connection, thought they feel like they have known each other all their lives, that really, they don’t know each other at all.
So, Allyson and Willem catch the train to Paris, they stop off a club, take a boat trip, hang out in a park and go for dinner. I like the simple things too – sometimes simple is best - and while I would have liked to have seen more of Paris in this book, it seemed fitting that the day was all about Allyson and Willem and not about the city. Some days can last a lifetime, and some are over all too soon, but while Allyson and Willem’s day in Paris turns into night, the next morning sees Allyson alone. Abandoned. Willem is gone, her Parisian fairytale is over, and it becomes clear to Allyson that she’s no Lulu.
So begins the second act of the book which sees Allyson feeling hurt and betrayed. College begins and life moves on, but Allyson can’t stop thinking about Willem. She needs to find him. She needs answers. And so her search begins.
I had high expectations for Just One Day, and it’s safe to say that this book met most of those expectations. Forman writes beautifully as always, seeing right into the hearts and souls of her characters. But here’s the thing that surprised me. All through my reading of Just One Day I felt something of an emotional disconnect from the story. Now, I know that I didn’t connect with Allyson, but still I hoped I would warm to her over time much like I did to Bria (a similar character to Allyson in many ways) from Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove. But that didn’t happen. I guess that because the synopsis of Just One Day reminded me in so many ways of one of my all time favourite movies, Before Sunrise, I had hoped that the characters in this book would be like old friends to me when the time came to say goodbye to them. Not so, but there’s still time for that, because we get to hear Willem’s side of the story in Just One Year, releasing next year.
And with Just One Day ending where it did and how it did, I cannot wait to get my hands on that one!