Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

"We are born in one day.  We die in one day.  We can change in one day.  And we can fall in love in one day.  Anything can happen in just one day."

After feeling lukewarm about Forman's If I Stay, and then absolutely loving her second novel (Where She Went), I was happy to find that my reaction to Just One Day was much like how I felt after reading the latter.  This novel is fun and thoughtful at the same time, with a whole lot of awesome travel-isms to boot.

When the novel opened, I'll admit that I was a little skeptical.  I felt like the text was trying too hard to be deep and insightful.  This is a problem I have with a lot of YA novels--they focus on mostly teenage characters, who just so happen to be the most sagacious and wise 16-year-olds on the planet.  They come up with revelations and quotes that my too-distracted-by-boys-and-Blink-182 self would never have so consistently done at that age.  This annoys me to no end.  I know that YA novels are, for the most part, supposed to be imparting important life lessons on their intended audience, but making those lessons so terribly obvious through "insightful" quotes feels kitschy and a bit condescending to me.

ANYWAY.  Obviously I took a turn after the first 20-30 pages.  As the story moved on, it was Allyson's personality that drew me in.  This is probably because I was a lot like her in my teen years.  Type-A personality, perfectionist, walked the straight and narrow, had the next 10 years of my life all mapped out.  Allyson slowly learns to break from this mold in a way that is neither abrupt nor contrived.  And she doesn't become the polar-opposite of herself either; rather, she blends the newly-discovered parts of her personality with the old ones.  I loved watching her blossom throughout the novel.

Allyson's relationship with Willem was pretty great as well.  Their dynamic was captivating, given that they were two such different people, and I like that the end didn't come together perfectly in a way that is typical for most romances.  I'll be picking up the sequel when it comes out for sure.

Two other small things to mention: one, all the travel in this book made me giddy!  As a travel-lover myself, I was completely glued to the tales of all the wonderful places Allyson traveled throughout the book.  Plus, I loved this quote:
"You thought too hard.  Same with travel.  You can't work too much at it, or it feels like work.  You have to surrender yourself to the chaos.  To the accidents."
I know, I was just complaining about all the overly-insightful quotes in this book, but that was a good one.

The other small thing I'd like to mention is in regards to Allyson's college advisor (Gretchen, I think her name was?).  As a higher ed professional, I HAVE TO COMMENT ON THIS.  First, she gets an A+ for her advising skills.  I would hire her any day.  And second, as a note to Gayle Forman, colleges don't call it the "guidance office".  After high school, they are Academic Advisors, not Guidance Counselors.  This detail drove me TOTALLY CRAZY and I felt it was crucial to add this to my review.  Ha.

My picky professional twinges aside, this book was truly a journey...and a fun one at that.  Allyson is a fabulous protagonist, and I can't wait to see what happens to her in the sequel.

Have you read Just One Day?  Any other recent YA reads that you want to share?


  1. I like to hear about YA books from not-exclusively-YA-Reviewers. Not that I don't adore some YA only reviewers, but I want to know if it's, you know, has appeal beyond the genre. I may just take your advice on this one!

  2. Yes, I think I tend to be a little harsher on YA novels than YA-only blogs...that's not a knock to them...I think I'm just kind of a picky reader in general!

  3. Haha-- the Guidance Counselor thing would drive me nuts, too. But I also work in higher ed, so maybe that is just something that would bug those of us in the field.

  4. OK, I'm glad there's another higher ed nerd here to back me up!! :)


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