Tuesday, 29 January 2013
Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Released: January 10th, 2013
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.
I really enjoyed Just One Day, but for me it never quite reached the heights of If I Stay or Where She Went. I felt like something was missing, an important ingredient, though it didn't dampen my need to read like a mad woman and find out what would happen to Allyson on her journey of self-discovery.
I personally couldn't identify with Allyson; I have zero interest in travelling, I don't have a list of places I want to visit and I'm not overly interested in different cultures. I know plenty of people who are, but that's just not me. I did, however, enjoy reading about the many acts of kindness that Allyson experienced on her travels, from strangers that owed her nothing and that she wouldn't see again. It showed me that the human race is still good, no matter how many terrible things we see and hear about.
While Just One Day does feature a romance - a sweet, consuming romance - it wasn't the sole focus. Allyson's journey and her own spring awakening was just as important as her meeting with Willem, and it was through him that she dared to do some of the things she did. Her growth throughout the book was the finest thing about it, and I loved the different directions her personality tool before ultimately settling on who she wanted to be. It highlighted an important message for everyone: be who you want to be and don't let anyone stand in your way.
Forman's writing was as beautiful as always, with certain passages making me sigh and re-read them straight away. She still has a way with words, with descriptions and phrases, that made me want to crawl inside the pages and never come back out. She's a powerful writer, and that shines through in every single book she publishes.
Usually I'd fall madly in love with a fictional boy like Willem, but I think in this instance he was too much of a mystery. I didn't feel like I knew him enough, which in turn never made me as empathetic with Allyson's situation as I perhaps should have been. I rolled my eyes once of twice, wishing for her to get on with her life and leave the past behind. But then Forman would write something that took my breath away, usually something about time, and then is be right back in the Willem bubble.
This book made me realise that just one day really can change everything, for better or worse. One day can tear a family apart or bring one closer together, it can make you meet the person you'll spend the rest of your life with or a friend that you'll know forever. It's a short period of time, but those twenty-four hours can be the start or something. Or the end. I think the concept of that, and of this whole novel, is a brilliant one, and I've come to the conclusion that only Gayle Forman could write it.
Just One Day is at times too slow, and at others too fast, but it's a good solid read nonetheless. The companion novel, Just One Year, is published in September and I'm interested to see how it plays out. It's from Willem's POV, which is bound to be interesting and filled with even more Shakespeare. I look forward to it.