July 17th, 2013

Just One Day

by Gayle Forman

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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 ofTwelfth 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!


I’ve read a number of rave reviews for Just One Day since its publication. Actually, it’s been called the best book of 2012 so many times that I began to doubt my initial, well, doubts. So when its cover peeped at me  from my local bookstore’s ‘Hot Reads’ section, I could no longer resist the temptation. Yes, dear friends, I bought Just One Day despite its outrageous hardcover price– since when is reading so expensive, right?– I dropped all upcoming social engagements, and I read. However, as happens oftentimes when one’s expectations escalate, my appreciation plummeted.

It wasn’t the painful typos that did me in, or the abrupt and unsatisfying ending, or even the seriously disturbing licking scenes. No, the blame goes all to Allyson. Of course, the deceptive cover didn’t help much either. What do you see on the cover of Just One Day, friends? A girl in a coffee shop? A girl in a coffee shop pondering the meaning of life? Nothing could be more untrue. This novel is not a tale of introspection, meditation, or philosophy, but rather of attention-seeking and low self-esteem.

Allyson’s foremost problem is that her opinion of herself is based on others’ opinions of her.  You’d think that after high school, a girl would be able to pull herself together and rake up some self-esteem, but unfortunately Allyson didn’t get the memo. She constantly demands approval and proof of her acquaintances’ friendship for her, and becomes annoyed when they fail to pledge their undying love. Moreover, having known Willem for roughly two hours, she feels inclined to act like a jealous and possessive girlfriend. Every woman with whom he makes eye contact is white trash or a slut worthy of her contempt. Obviously. Even in the novel’s conclusion, she fails to comprehend the most integral part of being Lulu: it isn’t the place that makes the person; it’s the person who makes themselves.

That being said, I did enjoy the romance between Allyson and Willem. Sure, it was complete and utter spray-tan love and a tad unrealistic, but, hey, if Willem could put up with Allyson, I’m willing to give him a go. I’m ready to deem him a saint just for enduring her presence for a full twenty-four hours. Furthermore, I completely understand that their love is true despite the constraints of time. Sometimes, young adults meet and they just understand one other. They gaze soulfully into each others’ eyes and just click. Boom. Love.

The gorgeous setting also almost made up for the disappointment that was our protagonist.  I’m sure that any novel jumping from England to France to the Netherlands wouldn’t fail to impress readers. Be that as it may, what amazed me the most was actually that, while in Paris, there were no visits to the Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, or the Arc de Triomphe. No, Allyson and Willem chose instead to parade around the city of lights in a boat and get into a gang fight. So kudos go to Forman for taking the road less traveled there. I also particularly enjoyed Willem’s impression of Americans– no offense taken, of course.

I would, I’m sure, appreciate Just One Day a great deal more had this tale of ‘personal growth’ been approached consistently and with moderate aplomb. Regrettably, I can only recommend it to those who enjoy a tepid heroine, an instantaneous romance, and unsightly melodrama in a beautiful setting. 2/5 stars.


I’ll keep you posted,

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