Written by Gayle Forman
Published January, 2013 by Dutton
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance, Travel
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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 was a spur of the minute choice of reading material – one that I was able to quickly finish and enjoy in ‘just one day’. It’s no surprise that Gayle Forman once again delivers another charming contemporary, read. While it is not my favourite of her books, Just One Day makes you think about the impact ‘accidents’ and chance meetings can have on us.
Although I didn’t enjoy Just One Day as much as I did her previous novel, Where She Went, I was still kept up to all hours of the morning reading until I could read no more. Gayle Forman is, at the very least, extremely capable at writing a compelling tale.
Allyson Healy, our main character, wasn’t particularly remarkable or special – but that’s what I liked about her initially. But what I originally found relatable soon became tedious, with Allyson not wanting to let go or move on after her stint in Paris. She just wasn’t evolving or changing… It took a good portion of the book (about 75% of it!) for Allyson to find her real footing and I think this is why I had trouble becoming attached to her as a narrator.
Just One Day started off as a really interesting, whirlwind adventure but then suddenly just… stopped. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting going into this one, but I didn’t expect to be spat out into the normal, dull college lifestyle of Allyson post-Willem halfway through the book.
Things only got interesting again once Allyson decided to track down the elusive Dutchman. It was here that Allyson really began to shine and gather her strength, but I felt it was a little too late. I had all these feelings and anticipation but not the commitment to the characters or their relationships.
Just One Day is positively bursting with foreign settings and travel hubs, but I didn’t really get a feel for any of these places through the pages. It almost feels sacrilegious to say that I don’t even get WHY Allyson and Willem’s day together was all that special… With just 24 hours together, they seemed to waste time by sleeping (twice!)
As for Willem, I get that he made Allyson question her life, her boundaries and her desires and had a wickedly magnetic personality to match, but I just couldn’t fathom why she couldn’t move past what had unfolded at the end of their day – to the point of being hung up about it a year later?
But, back to it. I really enjoyed ‘later book Allyson’ and her adventures. I was so happy when she found a friend in Wren, and that previous pal Melanie had slipped into the sidelines somewhat.
Things took another small nose-dive at the end… I don’t want to give away the ending, but I felt rather cheated at where and how Gayle Forman ended this one. I realise there is another book, Just One Year (which I am going to read at some stage), but I would rather an outright continuation of the story rather than Willem’s story.
Although I had some issues with Just One Day, I did enjoy it and it was a page turner. I was really torn between giving it 3 or 4 stars, but decided to round it down merely because I found the middle of the book to be a little lackluster.
Recommended to: If you like Gayle Forman’s previous books, give this one a go. It’s a quick read (or feels like one due to the pacing) so you really have nothing to lose!