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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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
This book just wasn't for me. I believe in love at first site but I HATED that this girl fell madly in love with this guy after only knowing him a day.
What was most disappointing about Gayle Forman’s story?
I was disappointed how the MC let her whole world change over this guy. She's bitter and kind of a bitch and she's failing her classes over this guy. I never bought that they loved each other so it was hard for me to sympathize with her. I didn't even think the guy was anything special and never felt myself swooning over him. The non-ending was such a bummer. I wish the MC would have been stronger. And that non-ending was horrible!
What aspect of Kathleen McInerney’s performance would you have changed?
I had no issues with the audiobook other than the fact that like the characters, I didn’t really connect with the narrators. She did a great job and she pulled off all those accents really well, I wouldn’t go look for another audiobook by this person though…
Do you think Just One Day needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
It obviously needs a follow up because of that ending but I don't think it was necessary.
Any additional comments?
Warning: this is going to be one of those ‘black sheep’ type of reviews…I really don’t think I’ve ever seen a review for this book that wasn’t 5 stars. Not just 5 stars but “OMG this is so good!’ 5 stars. Because of that, I’ve had this one my TBR since it came out. Also because of that, I’ve put off reading this because of all the hype. I was aware that this might have some sort of instalove element to it because of the title and I tried to keep an open mind about it. I really did…
While Allyson is abroad, she meets a Dutch actor, Willem, in a Shakespeare play. He woos her and against her best friends advise, she decides it’s a good idea to go to Paris with him for a day. This right here was my first issue with the book. She thinks it’s a good idea to take off to Paris with a total stranger just because he calls her ‘Lulu’ and because they have a ‘connection.’ Has this girl never seen Taken? Or seen the news? She knows nothing about Willem and she doesn’t even speak French. Whatever. I decided to just roll with the story. After all, it’s Paris! The city of love. I’m expecting one hell of a magical day between these two that will change my mind. Instead, they probably spend one of the most boring days ever spent in Paris. They don’t even go to any of the famous places like, oh I don’t know, the Eiffel Tower. The highlight is their day is probably their canal ride. It’s a toss up between that or getting mugged.
At first, I thought their connection was molasses slow and boring. I love the slow building romances but I just couldn’t connect with this one at all. All they do is talk about stuff I didn’t really care about. Willem tells Allyson his story, she falls head over heels in love with him, they kiss and all of a sudden it turns into a makeout session, then the condom is whipped out and they have sex and I was like: ‘whoa!’ I even backed up my audiobook to make sure I hadn”t missed anything. The next morning, Allyson wakes up alone. She decides that Willem must be out and will be back soon, but after waiting a few hours she realizes he isn’t coming back. Heartbroken and embarrassed, she eventually returns to her life back home.
My biggest issue with this book was how unbelievably heartbroken Allyson was over Willem. I kept wanting to shake her and yell to her ‘you only knew him one day!’ Sure, I believe in love in first sight and everything. I just didn’t believe these two were ever in love. They were both aware this was going to be a one day thing so either a) she should have given him his real name and maybe her phone number or b) he should have given her any other information about him. Allyson just wasn’t a very likable character for me. During their day together in Paris, she was jealous of any girl Willem talked to. That day, she was his Lulu. But once he leaves, she becomes this moody, depressed and mopey person. She’s so heartbroken that she’s even failing classes. Why does she have to be this Lulu person only when he was around?
I don’t really see what was so great about Willem. Really, I don’t. He was boring and nothing about him made me swoon for him or even understand why she was swooning over him. Even though I knew (or assumed) that he had left that day for a good reason, I still don’t get what was so special about their day or relationship. Allyson’s mom drove me crazy. She was one of those super controlling moms. When Allyson didn’t want to answer her calls, which was always, the mom started calling Allyson’s friends until she eventually called her back. And her best friend was such a waste of a character. I never liked her and my dislike for her grew more and more as the book went on. She was one of those attention-grabbing girls that has to have an ‘average’ best friend to make them look better. Her phases got on my nerves but not as much as the way she like talked like this like all the time!
So, after a year of moping, Allyson decides to finally go looking for Willem despite the fact that she only really knows his name along with some minor details about him. She’s traveling alone and staying in hostels (again, did she not see the movie Hostel???) all to look for a guy she spent one day with. After aallllll this, the book ends in such a non-ending way that made me want to say ‘what in the fuck?’ I know there’s a sequel in where he gets to tell his story and we (hopefully) get closure for them, but I just don’t care enough to read it.
I feel really bad because this is my first book by this author. I have If I Stay and Where She Went on my bookshelves and despite the fact that I didn’t like this book, I’m still looking forward to reading those and I think I would really like them. This was just one of those ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ cases. What makes me fell bad is that the writing really is beautiful. I appreciated the ‘you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself’ motto this book had going on. But my lack of connection with the characters and the story just didn’t work for me.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful