Author: Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #1
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: January 8, 2013
Challenge: YA Contemporary Challenge
Summary: 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.
Friends, stop whatever it is you are doing right now and READ THIS BOOK. READ IT. If I could urge you all to do this is something more stressed than CAPSLOCK BOLDFACE, I would. So, this is me, starting my review of JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman at the end, the part when I sum up my thoughts, telling you all that this book is amazing and to READ IT as soon as you can. That is all.
Just kidding. When have I ever not been able to flat-out run my mouth over a book that I loved til the end of time? Because that’s how much I love Gayle Forman’s JUST ONE DAY. I read it two weeks ago, and I still think about how much I loved it, and how much I was transported into the story, and how much I loved Lulu (it’s so strange sometimes to think of her as Allyson, even though that’s her actual name) and Willem. I can’t think of anything about this book that was even remotely poor. And–I must confess–I oftentimes judge books that I love unequivocally much HARDER than others, using a finer-tooth comb to find things that went wrong, as if it is impossible for a book to be SO basically perfect. Honestly, JUST ONE DAY doesn’t have anything like that, not for me. Gayle Forman is the for real best.
I feel like I have to discuss Allyson/Lulu in two separate parts because that’s how JUST ONE DAY does it: the beginning, with Willem, when she is Lulu, and then the rest, when she is Allyson-in-the-real-world trying not to lose Lulu. I spent most of JUST ONE DAY feeling what she was feeling, understanding her emotions and the way her brief time with Willem slowly changes her so much. Gayle Forman does such a great job with Allyson/Lulu’s growth in the aftermath of her one day. I know that so much of the attention for this book is on the relationship and Willem, but the truth is that we spend much more time with Allyson, and how this one day with this one guy first makes her feel his loss keenly, but then makes her more confident and strong and brave. She knows so much more about herself, and changes so much. It starts with Willem, but Allyson on her own is the one who really makes JUST ONE DAY super special.
Don’t worry, though. Willem, for all that he graces JUST ONE DAY with his presence for only a while, makes as lasting an impression on the reader as he does on Allyson (well, Lulu). Willlem is one of those guys who gets my blood rushing. But in a really complex way. Yes, he is sexy and mysterious and confident, and super tall, and that makes me swoony. But he’s also secretive and kind of inconstant and is one of those guys who has girls everywhere. He literally has a little black book. He never lies about it, never pretends that it’s not there, but still. IT’S THERE. Allyson is always reminding herself that she’s just one of many girls in Willem’s past, trying to reinforce the fact that she wasn’t anything special to him to no doubt cushion herself from further hurt. But you know what it is about Willem? MAGNETISM. He’s got this force field of attractiveness that sucks women in. He’s got this jaunty, refreshing thing going on, and he’s kind of dangerous, and…Hold up for a second: do you see how many adjectives I’ve just used trying to describe this guy to you all? This is why Gayle Forman is amazing. Her characters are so real and complicated and have so many facets that you couldn’t hope to capture them completely in just one paragraph. We don’t even capture Willem completely in one whole BOOK. At the end of JUST ONE DAY, there’s still so much about Willem we don’t know.
Incidentally, this is a theme in JUST ONE DAY. About who we are and who we pretend to be and about self-discovery and the truth. There’s a stellar character named Dee–a friend of Allyson’s from school–who has this amazing line: “And the people we pretend at, they’re already in us. That’s why we pretend them in the first place.” This–Allyson’s growth, where she slowly becomes not just Lulu, but more fully Allyson, too–and the relationship between Willem and Lulu is what drives JUST ONE DAY, and what makes it so wonderful, and what made me recognize all of these things I saw in myself when I was 18 and 19 years old. Things I recognize in myself still. SIGH.
Of course, there’s also the magic of travel that makes JUST ONE DAY so vibrant. You can tell that Gayle Forman loves these places with the way they jump off the page. It felt like I was there visiting these places, exploring them and making all these great memories from unexpected things.
Bottom line, friends? JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman is a new forever favorite, and I loved it. I LOVED IT, and I can’t wait until JUST ONE YEAR, Willem’s story, comes out this fall. If this book is any indication, Willem’s point of view is going to be off the chain.