May 2, 2014

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

And that's when I understand that I have been stained. Whether I'm still in love with him, whether he was ever in love with me, and no matter who he's in love with now, Willem changed my life. He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found.
-from Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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Imagine if you had one day in a foreign country with a gorgeous total stranger. That's what 18-year old Allyson Healey gets in Gayle Forman's Just One Day. Allyson is a rule follower who lets everyone else dictate her life's course until a fateful day on a post-graduation international trip when she meets Willem, a handsome stranger who offers to take her to Paris for just one day. Allyson blossoms into a bolder version of herself with Willem that raises the question of who she is and what she wants to do with her life. 

I'll admit, this book was not what I was expecting and that kind of affected my rating. I was anticipating a mildly-gushy super-romantic international love story, but the love story between Allyson and Willem only lasts about a third of the way through this book. The rest of the read I found myself asking, "Where is this story going?" way too much that it got kind of annoying. Hopefully my review will help you fill in the gaps the synopsis leaves out so that you will understand that this is not a story of romantic love, but actually self-love. 

I found that I could identify enough with Allyson to understand her and I think most girls who went through the challenges of not quite figuring out their identity in high school will be able to identify similarly. Allyson's love for herself is practically non-existent at the beginning of this story, but she also doesn't know if she's "Lulu", the version of herself Willem identified her with. Once I was able to deny my expectations of romance and see that this book was more an explication of Allyson's growth and self-love I was better able to enjoy it. 

Allyson's apathy toward her life and/or her fear of failure and making poor decisions are just the superficial problems she has. She doesn't know how to stand up to her parents because she feels responsible for their happiness, namely her mother's. She doesn't know how to be a friend or participate in life because she's mostly just watched. It's fun to see Allyson blossom and, through new people and experiences, learn to love herself. 
My favorite thing about this book was the use of Shakespeare. I think Forman's usage of various Shakespearian plays really helped to reinforce the themes of false identity and pretending to be things that you simply are not. Shakespeare comes full circle and after reading this book I want to rush out and see a live performance of As You Like It. I think most Shakespeare loving English majors will also adore this aspect of the story, especially because it adds so much to both the arc and themes.

I can't say much about Willem because I don't want to spoil anything, but I highly recommend having the sequel, Just One Year, beside you once you finish this book. Unfortunately, I did not and I really wanted to continue the story! 

Bottom Line: This is not simply a romantic love story, it's much more than that. This is a story about finding who you are and loving that person, not pretending to be something you're not. If you like YA stories about self-discovery, travel, and love, you should definitely read it! 4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. i think it takes a lot of courage to let a total stranger take you out to foreign country. but i guess, if i had the chance, i'd say yes. haha. hmm... i might read this one


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