Review: Just One Day

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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!

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

If a book’s description has the mere mention of anything related to Shakespeare, I always end up picking it up to read. However, it seems like even though authors try to incorporate Shakespeare into their work, it usually doesn’t come out all that compelling, especially in Young Adult books. However, in Just One Day, Shakespeare doesn’t play too large of a role, but the role he does play serves a purpose and is actually pulled off rather well.

This book was rather different from what YA books I typically read and review. How so? This book requires the reader to truly get into the mind of a teenager (the main character, Allyson, is actually a high school graduate, so that’s another huge difference between this book and other YA books I have read.) I find that this book is either one that the reader will really enjoy or one that is rather disliked; so far from other reviews that I have seen, the majority appear to like the book very well. I am one of those who rather enjoyed the book, though there were a few moments where I found myself questioning the story.

A common theme among YA books is that of self-discovery. However, much like the concept of using Shakespeare, sometimes this doesn’t work out entirely. In this case, this book was solely about Alysson’s self-discovery, and a rather invigorating journey at that. Allyson has never exactly been the outgoing type. That is, until she meets Willem on her high school graduation Europe trip. After pretending to be Lulu in the company of Willem, Allyson finds herself asking questions of others, but turns around and discovers answers about herself. While there were many moments later on when Allyson withdrew back into her reclusive self, she eventually found herself to actually be encompassing the traits she created when she pretended to be Lulu.

The entire book takes off in a whirlwind after Allyson spends one day in Paris with Willem, the Dutch boy she met when she watched him perform in a production on one of Shakespeare’s plays (Twelfth Night.) Allyson’s journey to self-discovery deals with self-doubt through the majority of it (as many teenagers, and adults as well, experience at some point) but slowly matures into a more positive experience of self-acceptance, if you will. Allyson slowly sheds the “good girl” image that has followed her around for her entire life. There were many moments in the book that were rather difficult to take, as I feel everyone has experienced something similar in their own lives (not to give away too much, but the fact that Allyson and her best friend drift apart once they attend college, is not a farfetched idea…sadly, many people experience this.) Once she is back home and away from Paris, Allyson does what she can to rediscover who she was when she pretended to be Lulu; Allyson learns that even though she pretended to be someone she thought she wasn’t, the traits of that pretend character may not be too removed from who she could be.

Even though there were moments when Allyson got on my absolute last nerve, I had to put myself back into the mind of a teenager. Would I have reacted the same way to certain situations? Would I have done what Allyson/Lulu did? Would I find myself in a similar scenario? While it hasn’t been that long since I was a teenager myself (I’ll be 23 in April), I still have a rather hard time remembering just exactly how I was, both in actions and in thought. There were many moments when I just wanted to shake Allyson for acting so mopey, especially several months after everything that happened on that one day, but at the same time, I applauded her on how she actually handled herself; I can’t decide if I would turn into a recluse myself or if I would do anything humanly possible to move on from that day. Through the help of a Shakespeare Out Loud class and her partner (and new friend) Dee, Allyson regains the courage she lost in order to rediscover the Lulu side of her.

Now, there were some things that bothered me about the story. First, am I the only one who saw the movie Taken and am forever scared to go anywhere alone, especially someplace overseas? Probably, considering I worry constantly and can be a bit paranoid. However, I just cannot imagine letting my child go on such a large trip with only one adult chaperone; it doesn’t matter to me that Allyson was technically considered an adult (being 18 and all), I still would be petrified. I swear that movie ruined me. Another thing that bothered me was the lack of much character development in any character other than Allyson. Even Willem, who Allyson spent a majority of the book thinking about, didn’t have much depth to him. I wish the author had spent some more time on the secondary characters, even just to give them more life and more of a meaning to Allyson’s journey.

I’m glad Just One Day focused on Allyson’s journey to self-discovery and not the small romance factor that was present between Allyson and Willem. This book was about Allyson’s changes from just one day; it will be exciting to read Willem’s journey when Just One Year comes out in 2014.

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