All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Just One Day – Gayle Forman

on March 5, 2013

Just One DayJust One Day (Just One Day #1)
Gayle Forman
Random House AU
2013, 369p
Read from my TBR pile

To celebrate her finishing high school, Allyson’s parents presented her with a ticket for a guided tour of Europe, taking in a lot of cities and even more Culture! On the last night of the tour, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Allyson and her friend Melanie are lining up to see a tour-approved  Shakespeare play when they are distracted by street performers hawking their own Shakespeare play, performed a lot more informally. Taken in by one of the performer’s blonde hair and blue eyes, Allyson does something very out of character: she and Melanie ditch their tour-approved Shakespeare play and go searching for the street one.

The next day, the tour is finished and Melanie and Allyson are taking the train to spend some time with Melanie’s cousin before flying out of London and home to America. But the boy from the Shakespeare play the night before is on their train and Allyson somehow finds herself convinced to take a day with him in Paris. Paris was cancelled from the official tour due to strikes and Willem, the Shakespeare boy is promising a whirlwind 24 hours, the likes of which Allyson would never have experienced with the tour. So for the second time, she does something uncharacteristic and she goes with Willem.

Paris is everything she imagined and more. Willem and Allyson (whom he calls Lulu, due to her looking like Louise Brooks) experience the different sides of Paris, not just the tourist traps. They take a tram to a random location, they sleep in a squat. Allyson feels free, a different person to the one she is at home. Everything is perfect – the sizzling chemistry with Willem, a Dutch actor who has been away from home for years, the scratching below the surface, the glimpses they are giving each other of the deep and meaningful. This is travel how it should be done and Allyson can’t help but think of how different it was to the tour.

But then it is over and Willem is gone and Allyson is stranded in a strange city. After Just One Day everything changes and when Allyson goes home and starts college doing pre-med, she finds herself struggling with moving on. She knows she needs to forget, that it was just that – one day out of her life. But she can’t forget Willem and she decides that she has to know what happened to him.

And for that, she has to go back to Paris.

Gayle Forman wrote two of my most favourite books – the phenomenal If I Stay and the follow up, Where She Went. In this book, she does something similar. Just One Day is part one and it is Allyson’s story. Then there’ll be Just One Year which will be Willem’s story. Needless to say, when I heard about these two books, I had only one thought: want now.

Allyson is a good girl – straight A student, dutiful daughter, about to undertake pre-med studies. Despite the fact that she’s 18, her parents and in particular her mother, treat her as though she is about 8. A child who needs their every decision made for them, right down to what clothes she will wear for each season. When they provide her with a ticket for the culture tour of European cities, it’s not something that Allyson enjoys. It’s bland, overly crowded and manufactured – iconic buildings and locations a blur out of the tour bus window as the coordinator recites facts that can be found on Wikipedia. That changes on the last day, when Allyson meets Willem. And decides to do something impulsive. And then something else impulsive.

On one hand, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Allyson’s finding of herself in that time with Willem. She felt like she could be someone else, but maybe who she was being was herself and the person she was at home in America with her parents, wasn’t her. There were risks with what she did, but the payoff for her was huge. The chance to travel as a backpacker type, taking in different parts of a city, not just the one monument it’s famous for, gave her wings. I liked Willem but unfortunately, I didn’t love him. There was plenty about him that remained a mystery and it may take reading Just One Year for me to fully love him. I loved the time the two of them spent in Paris but when Allyson returned home and started college, the tilt of the book shifted.

There were glimpses of genius – Dee, the friend Allyson makes when she throws caution to the wind and takes a Shakespeare class, is pure comedy gold. I also liked the way in which she became friends with Kali, her roommate. It gave the reader glimpses into the way that other people perceive Allyson, and it wasn’t always positive. The person Allyson was at her first semester of university wasn’t really a likable one. All the moping over Willem and what happened and France and then later the drama with her parents, tended to pull me out of the story a bit. It was a bit of a struggle, that section.

Then Allyson decided to back to Paris. And the story was fun and fresh and exciting again. She began to stretch her wings, find her independence and cut the apron strings of her overprotective mother who was projecting her own dreams on to Allyson. She found herself a summer job and began learning French. She got the courage to do the thing she needed to do alone but she also didn’t refuse help along the way like she once would have. She made more friends. She began to get the hang of the whole travelling on a whim thing.

(As an Australian, it’s hard not to be jealous of Europeans. They can visit a dozen different countries for about 50 bucks. Here it takes a long haul plane flight and close to 2k to get most places.)

Just One Day had flashes of brilliance but also some parts that were for me, just not fun to read at all. And not in a good way, where it rips out your heart and hands it to you, but in that bad way where you find yourself getting a bit bored with the plot and cranky at the main character. However I’m still eagerly anticipating Just One Year. I hope that novel will give me the answers I need to say that I am truly satisfied.


Book #50 of 2013


3 responses to “Just One Day – Gayle Forman

  1. Belle says:

    I am soooo jealous of Europeans for their travel ability!
    I’m still excited to read this!

  2. I loved this book. It was hard to read at times since, like you said, she wasn’t very likable at university. But her depression felt real. And I can see how even just a little thing can trigger a much greater reflection on one’s self. I loved Dee.

    As an American, I’m also very jealous that it’s so easy to travel in Europe.

  3. Marg says:

    I have this out from the library at the moment. Will have to read it in the next week or so. I am trying to temper my expectations but it is hard because I did like Forman’s earlier books!

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