Release Date: January 8, 2013
Published by: Dutton Juvenile
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!
A lot of bloggers have already posted reviews of this book (here and here are some good ones), and since I'm not sure that I really have a lot of new things to say, I thought I'd TRY to write a short review of my opinion, which somewhat aligns with this review by the New York Times.
There are two parts to this book: the day that Allyson spends with Willem, and the year that she spends trying to understand what happened and discover why *she* felt different when she was with him. Personally, I was a lot less interested in the romance portion than the self-discovery (unusual for me, seeing as I am a romance addict). The romance is shady and messy, which can be good in some circumstances in terms of realism/suspension of disbelief, but for the day that they're together, it makes it harder for me to believe in them as a couple (rather than say, a representation of another part of Allyson, buried deep until she realizes it). Plus, Willem is mysterious, potentially a player, potentially a good guy, and his amused smile/smirk irritated me. If I was in Allyson's position, I would have honestly thought he seemed at times condescending, no love interest at all. I'm sure the mystery of him, though, will fuel the sequel nicely.
But. I really enjoyed the portion of this book devoted to Allyson's experiences in college and with her parents. I enjoyed reading her thoughts on the day with Willem--even when she was depressed--and understanding why it had affected her so much. I especially liked seeing her grow, seeing her throw off the expectations others, like her parents, have of her and become her own person. Now I'll quote from the book to show you what I mean:
"'I was Lulu.'
'But that was just a name. Just pretend.'
Maybe it was. But still, that whole day, being with Willem, being Lulu, it made me realize that all my life I've been living in a small, square room, with no windows and no doors. And I was fine. I was happy, even. I thought. Then someone came along and showed me there was a door in the room. One that I'd never even seen before. Then he opened it for me. Held my hand as I walked through it. And for one perfect day, I was on the other side. I was somewhere else. Someone else. And then he was gone, and I was thrown back into my little room. And now, no matter what I do, I can't seem to find that door." (179)Why I like this quote: Because you don't have to believe in the day that she has with Willem to understand this feeling. You can have any life changing experience with someone and then not know what to do when that experience ends. Her experience rings true. It's sad but feels authentic. And I felt that I could empathize a lot with Allyson in these moments. They also made her growth so much more poignant.
"Sometimes you can only feel something by its absence. By the empty space it leaves behind." (276)Why I like this quote: Allyson is arguing with her mother, and this quote reflects not only the argument but the book at large. Sometimes you have to step back in order to understand what's going on around you and with you and your life. Personally I identified a lot with Allyson's struggles to throw off the expectations others have of her, but again I think that anyone could feel with and for her then.
I'm not terribly interested in Willem and wasn't too happy when Allyson went to find him. (I did enjoy it when she embraced her experiences with the others in hostel group. Que sera sera.) I think that Gayle Forman's got quite a bit of work laid out for her in Just One Year, but I am looking forward to reading more about Allyson and am hoping that Willem redeems himself. (And that Allyson's growth is not hampered in the process.)
All in all, I would recommend this book for the way it examines this young woman's journey to self-acceptance. Also, traveling. Also, college setting. :)