Review: Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

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Cover of Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

I was in the mood for a romantic book that wasn’t a romance. At first, I thought I wanted some chick lit or women’s fiction but then I stumbled upon Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and it struck a nostalgic chord in me. I bought it on a whim and don’t regret it.

Just One Day is a new adult novel that revolves around good girl Allyson’s journey to finding herself and love lost. Everything starts in England–just before her freshman year at Harvard starts–when Allyson and her best friend Melanie decide to check out an underground performance of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. That’s when Allyson first catches sight of Willem de Ruiter, a free-spirited young Dutch actor. Sparks fly and, on a whim, Allyson decides to go to Paris with Willem. During their time together, she blossoms, becoming Lulu–a more laid-back and adventurous version of herself as Willem encourages her to stop following a plan that was never hers to begin with. But nothing goes as smoothly as Allyson hopes. Willem’s good looks mean that she is under the constant scrutiny of other young women who are attracted to him and there are the inevitable meetings with girls from his past. But along the way, Allyson learns to let go and to let herself experience life and love without the suffocating boundaries set up by her parents. But just as quickly as they meet, a misunderstanding tears them apart and Allyson eventually returns to the confines of her life in the US, wondering if that one day with Willem meant as much to him as it has to her and if she can ever find him again.

While I was reading Just One Day, I was reminded of the movie Before Sunrise. There is the chance meeting in an unexpected setting, the American falling in love with the European, and the limited time they have together. But that’s where the similarities end. Forman has written a story that is in itself like the Shakespearean plays Allyson studies–where no one is quite what they seem. Willem is charming and frustrating and, according to Allyson, too beautiful for her. And  Allyson, insecure and overprotected, becomes the woman she wants to be as they explore the beauty…and sometimes the dangers…of Paris.

I loved reading Just One Day. I thought it was an elegantly written novel with beautiful descriptions of Paris and Utrecht and scenes set in Philadelphia that made me just a tad bit homesick. 🙂 The characters are three-dimensional and come to life, making you care about them and cheer for them. The sequel to Just One Day, told from Willem’s point of view and called Just One Year, is coming soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

My take on it? 5 stars.

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