Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman [Review]

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)4 out of 5 Robots!

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #1
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release: January 8, 2013
Hardcover: 368
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
My Copy: Purchased
Reviewer: Shannon
Buy the Book: Amazon

Book Summary:
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.

Shannon's Thoughts:
Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went are some of the best contemporary YA books I've read, so I was very excited to read Just One Day.  Something that Gayle Forman does very well is write heartbreak and longing and imperfect characters.  Just One Day is very different than her previous books.  Where If I Stay dealt with loss of family and the decision to stay or go and Where She Went dealt with the aftermath of grief and being left behind, Just One Day mostly deals with the loss of innocence and the desire to find oneself.  In other words, it has less heady subject material, but the imperfect characters are there.  Willem and Allyson are definitely imperfect people.  Willem is a bit of a tumbleweed - living life one moment at a time.  Allyson is the opposite - everything planned out and safe.  Allyson is spending her summer with her best friend in Europe on a tour for teenagers.  While her best friend is ready to rebel a bit, Allyson prefers to play by the rules.  But on the last night in Europe, she meets Willem who convinces her to spend a day (and night) in Paris with him.  She absconds to Paris, creating a more reckless alter ego named "Lulu".  Even at this can feel that it is not going to end well.

I was a little surprised that the day in Paris only accounts for half of the book.  I was expecting the whole book to be about that day, but it ends sooner than expected.  Willem and Allyson definitely have a lot of chemistry and end up spending the night together.  Allyson wakes up to find herself alone and assumes she has been left.  She leaves Europe brokenhearted and starts college in the fall.

Only she is now kind of a wreck.  She is depressed and has no interest in making friends.  She can barely get by in her classes.  She is just drifting.  She starts to push back against her overbearing mother, who is completely flabbergasted by this change in her daughter.  It isn't until Allyson starts to make decisions for herself (with the help of a sassy gay best friend, natch) that she starts to become the person she wants to be - namely the girl who was Lulu in Paris.

There is no doubt Gayle Forman is an amazing writer, but some parts of this story rubbed me the wrong way.  Allyson was very prickly and hard to get to know.  I had a hard time relating to her.  Also, I was very uncomfortable with the fact that Allyson was so depressed about what happened in Europe.  I get that part of it was she was unhappy with herself and she wanted to break out of her mold, but she spends MONTHS moping about a guy she knew less than 24 hours.  Loss of innocence is hard and leaves an indelible mark, but this was like Bella Swan levels of moping.  The second half of the book also deals a lot with the relationship between her and her mother which was painful at times.  Her mother is extremely overbearing and completely bowls Allyson over.  It seemed to take way too long for Allyson to start standing up to her.

But I will definitely read the sequel Just One Year, which is told from Willem's perspective, when it comes out in October.  I'm sure Forman will have some surprises in store.

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