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Gayle Forman’s latest book Just One Day explores how your life can change seemingly overnight. A story with mystery, adventure and romance, Just One Day follows Allyson as she gets lost and found again in Paris.
The story begins with Allyson’s trip to Europe one summer before college. She’s always been a girl who follows the rules and doesn’t veer from her chosen path. But in Europe she starts to get a little more adventurous, and her edgy new haircut allows her to try on a new persona.
Allyson meets Dutch actor Willem and makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to abandon her existing travel plans and go with him by train to spend the day in Paris. Willem doesn’t even know Allyson’s real name, and calls her Lulu for her Louise Brooks haircut. Willem is quite mysterious himself and Allyson is constantly second-guessing her decision to go off with him. When she wakes up the next morning to find Willem missing, it sets into motion a new path for Allyson.
Willem seemed like a shady character to me, but I could see how Allyson could be so charmed by him. The sights and sounds of Paris were the perfect romantic backdrop for their adventure, and Allyson enjoys feeling like the leading lady in the movie (or Shakespeare play) for the first time. Part of the appeal is that the reader doesn’t really know if they can trust Willem and it’s easy to get swept up in the romance and mystery of it all with Allyson.
Many of the themes found in Just One Day lend themselves well to the New Adult niche, especially with regards to finding yourself. Allyson is just starting college and living away from home for the first time. The aftershocks of her day in Paris with Willem impact her schoolwork and social life completely. Allyson also has to deal with a new relationship with her parents, especially her mother who is used to being in charge of her life. Even her friend alliances and school focus shifts. But can Allyson move forward with her life if she doesn’t resolve her past with Willem? Or is Willem not the point at all in Allyson’s self-development?
Just One Day has Forman’s trademark dramatic intensity but didn’t make me cry like If I Stay. The book is gorgeously written and made me feel all of Allyson’s changing moods. The nature of the book makes it a good fit to read in one day if you have the time, and especially because you’ll want to see it through to the end. But the weightiness of it all made me want to take little breaks to really digest the story.
I listened to the audiobook of Just One Day, read by Kathleen McInerney, a new-to-me narrator. McInerney got into the character well, and sounded like a young, naïve college student to me. She does get the opportunity to try a variety of accents and age ranges in her reading and makes the most of the audio format. McInerney does the heavy lifting with the pronunciations and foreign words to make things a little easier for the reader. The story does lend itself to audio, but overall I liked both the reading and listening experiences equally (I read the book first). Listening doesn’t make the torturous ending any easier though!
And about that ending, Just One Day is Allyson’s story, and in the sequel Just One Year we get to hear Willem’s side of things. If you enjoy Gayle Forman’s books, or reading about self-discovery or foreign travel, treat yourself to Just One Day.
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