Author: Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: 08 January 2013
Date Read: Jan 2013
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 thought Just One Day would be like Anna and the French Kiss. Hot European guy, amazing setting, heart-to-heart scenes, BAM, new favourite novel. I got all of that and more. I'm warning you now, this is going to get rambly and it will contain some spoilers.
I have a lot of feelings, okay.
I have to admit, Paris was never the dream for me. It was always Italy. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go there but I never thought it would be as amazing as Italy. I feel like with the way everyone sees Paris, it's this land that exists right next to Narnia. It just seemed too perfect. Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Which is why I think Forman did a bang-up job with it. After having read this, screw Italy. Sign me up for French lessons, ship me to Paris and I will never leave. What Forman painted is a side of Paris I feel we rarely ever get to see.
Allyson spent little time in Paris but it is during those times only when she's let go of all the constraints, became someone else and took on a new persona, Lulu. She was the daring, adventure-loving Lulu- the complete opposite of who Allyson believes herself to be. And she fell in love- with Paris, with Willem, with the freedom and with the person she found herself to be.
Honestly, I didn't even realize things were going to go horribly wrong. I was so wrapped up in this cocoon of love and beauty that I forgot that this was YA fiction and when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. So that one perfect day ended. Willem left, Allyson is heartbroken and I couldn't believe that just happened.
Willem brief presence in the novel still rang clear throughout the rest of it. Willem is charismatic, funny, handsome and he speaks like a bank lion languages. He's perfect but we nor Allyson didn't really know him, which is why it's understandable Allyson reacted the way she did when finally faced with the bad. Willem was always this mystery, the guy that stained Allyson's life and after that fateful one day, she couldn't go back to before. She fell into a depression- not wanting to talk to anybody, not taking anything seriously, being tired all the time and still hung up on Willem. Because what if something was wrong and he didn't leave her but it was her that ended up leaving him? She missed Willem, she missed Paris and she missed Lulu. There was no way she could have changed things so she just did completely nothing. I admit, I got a bit annoyed at her for that. It was only one day and they both knew they were going to part ways when it was over. Did she really think things were going to turn out perfectly? At the same time though, it's like I felt that cloud of depression like it was a part of me, not completely but enough to have be crying non-stop for about 100 pages. (I wish I was kidding. I told you, I had a lot of feelings) It was perfect and now everything's gone to shit. Those were her lowest points.
But the manner in which she bounced back and found life again, this time completely by herself, was Something Else. She's made and lost friends, established her relationship with her parents and most importantly, found what she really wanted for herself and taken control over her own life. I was so very proud of her. Allyson learned that the hard decisions are worth it if it means discovering yourself.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters, namely Melanie and Dee. Melanie has been best friends with Allyson since kindergarten and their own paths to self-discovery had driven the two apart, not to mention the distance. It's a hard fact of life to accept that people change and you're not necessarily going to like what they've changed into. You lose friendship but you gain new ones, too. Dee is Allyson's class partner and the first friend she's genuinely made in college. Dee, like everyone else, has many sides to his personality. He just shows them off more vividly and vibrantly than others. He's ghetto-wild, preppy smart, outlandishly gay, quiet, a romantic, a joker and that's all of him. Pfft. Who needs labels? I wished I had seen his character established more though.
Actually, I feel like every character Allyson encountered, I loved. *looking back on all of the characters* Allyson's mom, Wren, those Aussies, Jen, Kali, Ana Lucia. Modou Mjodi, Captain Jacques, that guy having a baby in that random bakery. Yup. I did.
One last thing. Now I have read many books with cliffhangers and I have hated them all (the cliffhangers, not the books) but Just One Day really sucker-punched me. My immediate reaction to it was that I wanted to punch Forman back on the throat for leaving me hanging like that. Not just because of the way it ended so abruptly and gah I want to know what happens already, but also because I can't wait for Willem's story. He had his own journey, his own personal growth and I don't doubt that it will be just as captivating a story as Allyson's was.
Just One Day is a must read for all. It's one of those books that will stay with me, its characters, themes, events just randomly popping up in my mind every now and then for me to relive. Would it be too soon to proclaim Just One Day as one of the best books of 2013? Probably. But I can guarantee you this book will end up in my Top 10 list by the end of the year.