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 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 is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!
Warning: you will DESPERATELY want to read the sequel, Just One Year, immediately after finishing. I’m basically holding my breath until it comes out.
Just One Day was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2013…and it didn’t disappoint. My only problem is that it came out so early in the year that I’m pretty sure nothing else is going to compare to it. Gayle Forman, you’ve ruined me for the rest of the year!
When I first started reading, I was like, “This is so Before Sunrise” and it almost felt too much like the movie…and too easy. The romance blossomed so beautifully between Allyson/Lulu and Willem, with intimate scenes discussing their thoughts on love and how to live life. The romance of that one day in Paris just builds and builds, until they finally kiss and everything sparks. It’s almost too perfect, kind of like Before Sunrise. It’s a fantasy.
This is where Gayle Forman, brilliant author of If I Stay and Where She Went takes over. Instead of taking the easy route and ending it there, like the movie did, Forman’s novel goes deep and dark. Allyson’s worst fears come true after that brilliant day, and her panic, realization, and subsequent depression was so vivid and damaging. My heart aches just thinking about it.
Have you ever been lost and alone in a city you don’t know, with the feeling that you’ve gotten yourself into a situation that you can’t get out of? Have you ever felt really and truly stranded? I have. In 2006, I was studying abroad and travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon. I was so excited see all of the Shakespearean paraphernalia and the Royal Shakespeare Company do a Shakespeare play (I don’t remember what it was).
After the play, I got on the bus to go back to my hostel – it was the last bus of the night, and it was super-dark outside. I missed my stop and ended up in the middle of nowhere. The bus dropped me off on a street with no lights, just a strip of curb. And that was when I realized that I had no idea what I was doing, and that I was scared and alone, with no way of getting home.
A black cab finally came along, and even though I had the address of the hostel, he couldn’t find it, and told me it would cost me a ton of money to get back there. We drove around for about half an hour, and I honestly thought that I was going to be driven to a field and shot or raped or worse.
Luckily, the cab driver gave up and took me back to Stratford-upon-Avon, where I paid him forty(!) pounds, then got in a proper taxi that took me straight to the hostel for six pounds. I barely slept that night and used my last bit of money on my calling card to call a friend from home, crying and scared and unbelievably relieved to be safe.
This is why my fiance says this book is about me. Because Allyson goes through something very similar, and it really makes her question herself and her faith in people.
I really, REALLY don’t want to spoil anything else. Despite what I’ve revealed about Allyson’s journey, this book is full of beautiful, happy moments, and gems of characters who help Allyson along the way. Every one of them is so well-developed and thought out (Oh, DEE! How I love and want to be your friend!), and each one of them appears in such a seamless and perfect way.
Even Allyson’s parents, originally seen through her eyes as villainous and overbearing, are more than just archetypes. You will fall in love with all of the people in Allyson’s life, and you will hate some of them at certain times, but you will always believe that the character is authentic and true. Allyson is so raw and emotionally vulnerable, and it’s so beautiful and bittersweet to take this journey with her.
Just One Day was hard for me to read at times, because it mirrored my own life in so many ways. It hit me so personally. Allyson’s journey is so close to what I experienced as a young person. Even her pre-judging of Kali and Jen, her partying roommates, reminds me so much of how I was in college.
To me, what makes Just One Day more than “just one day” is how Allyson deals with college and the fall-out of something that really mattered to her, for the first time in her life. It seems like such a little thing – meeting someone, having a real connection, and then disappearing from one another’s lives after less than 24 hours – but through this book, Forman reminds her readers that life is a series of little moments, and that every once in awhile, one comes along that can change you to the core.
Bonuses (this is just a few – this book was FULL of amazing things):
Kick-arse secondary characters: SO MANY. Like I said, I can’t spoil things for you. But Dee, Babs, Wren…they are all so amazing. I so wish I could have them in my life, too.
It’s a Mystery (But Not of the Paranormal Variety): Not entirely, but there’s definitely a bit of something that propels Allyson along her way. And it’s a good one.
I Want to Go To There: You’ve been reading this review, right? So you know this book is ALL ABOUT THE TRAVEL. London. Amsterdam. Utrecht. Paris, especially, gets such a wonderful treatment in this novel. You will want to go and meet a mysterious young man who makes the world magic for you, for a moment.
Heart-squeezing romance: I’m not just talking about the heat between Allyson and Willem (although that is AMAZING). I’m also talking about the romance of believing in second chances, in miracles, and in fate. In a way, falling in love with those beliefs again meant just as much to me as the actual romantic relationship in the book.
The Final Word
This is the book that perfectly describes those little moments of perfection and fear that you felt when you backpacked around Europe (or South America or wherever). It’s also the book that will make you believe in accidents, miracles, and true love like you did when you were a teenager.
Travel junkies, fans of Gayle Forman, lovers of Shakespeare or Before Sunrise/Sunset, romantics, contemporary addicts like me, people who want to read a damn good book.