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!
Lemme just start off this review by saying that I love Gayle Forman. I really do. Well, I don't know her in real life so she'll probably find me really creepy if she was to read this but uh yeah, I love her books usually. Admittedly, there only has been two other books of hers that I've read: If I Stay and Where She Went. But I loved them. This book? Eh, it was okay. Not terrible, not good.
"We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day."
So, when I was reading the blurb, I was like, "YAY, EUROPE!" (I have a severe case of Europhilia, okay?!) and was counting down the days for this book's release. When I got it though, I was like, "Oh shizzles... this is depressing." I don't always like uplifting books but c'mon, a tour around Europe is sure to be fun and not depressing right? Or maybe it's just the teenage girl in me that's just giddy and wide-eyed at the thought of going to Europe one day. Anyway, yes. This book was depressing and I don't think having such a passive narrator such as Allyson helped matters and my resentful feelings towards Allyson just grew the further I delved into the novel.
After finishing high school, Allyson embarks on a tour of Europe with her best friend, Melanie. She struggles to find any excitement or fun out of her trip until she meets handsome Dutch actor, Willem. Allyson is intrigued by Willem upon their very first meeting and in a few short hours, she decides to ditch her friend and travels alone on a train with Willem, who is a complete stranger. Gurl, I would be worried about whether he wanted to drag me into a dark alley and rape me before stealing whatever money I had, no matter how handsome or charming he was. From this point onwards, this pretty much killed off any excitement I had about the book as it was so far-fetched and unrealistic - the blurb did say she was a good girl, after all.
Allyson was quite a confusing narrator. She is initially portrayed as the good girl who plays it safe and is adored by authority figures yet she sheds all that in just one nanosecond and embarks to Paris with a total stranger and gets all creepy, jealous and possessive feelings when said stranger talks to other girls. She and Willem spend the whole entire day in Paris that is rather uneventful (they fall asleep in a park and don't see the Eiffel Tower) except for one shocking experience near the end of the day. Her experiences with Willem were supposed to be so profoundly moving that it altered her perceptions on life forever, but I wasn't quite feeling it. It all seemed rather forced and contrived and that one whole day in Paris had a great effect on her, which I didn't really understand why.
As for Willem as a character, he was definitely mysterious but seemed rather bland - I know, I know, weird combination. We don't know much about him, other than what he looks like. The audience didn't know about him much at all which made me pretty indifferent towards him, which in turn probably made me less empathetic towards Allyson than I should have been. I wasn't feeling their romance, even after they did the deed.
After that one day in Paris, Willem disappears and Allyson spends the entire year moping about it and every decision she makes onwards seems to be just because of him, but I suppose that was the whole point of it, he helped her discover her inner spirit or whatever blah blah. Allyson forms new friendships only for them to disintegrate, abandons her old plans for life, and begins to struggle in school which is a reflection of her time with Willem, that sometimes what you planned in life isn't the right path for you and I get that. I actually liked this sentiment and I can actually empathise with it. But this story was supposed to be one of self-discovery but there wasn't enough of self-discovery and too much of Willem. Maybe it's just because I'm a naive teenager who reads and watches too much happily-ever-after books and movies but I can't get the concept of having a one night stand with a guy you barely know affecting your life so much just doesn't ring with me.
There wasn't enough of Allyson learning to enjoy life for herself and choosing her own pathways because she wants to, but because she was affected by Willem on so many levels. I dislike the idea of someone being the cause of your happiness, motivation and sadness; basically he was the centre of her universe. It was just all too Bella Swan-ish for my liking and I have a deep hatred of Twilight.
There are some things that I liked about this book (I'm not all misery, gloom and doom) and that was it's portrayal of Europe, Paris especially. There are countless of books set in Europe and it tends to be all fun and romance-y and lovey-dovey and I love the fact that Forman didn't shy away from the grittier and grimier parts. She does a marvellous job of transporting her readers to the location of where her book is set and this book was no different. We see Allyson's struggle with the French language, mentions of macarons and crepes and the dirtier side of Paris.
While I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I would definitely be keeping an eye out for the sequel of Just One Day which is from Willem's view. I can pretty much guess how it'll go, he's not a douche, he had an excuse for leaving blah blah. I don't particularly care for it but I'm just hoping a story from his point of view would make his character more interesting (Forman does wonderfully with guy characters, as seen with Adam from Where She Went) and give us more of an insight into his personality.
Just One Day is about re-discovering yourself and redefining who you are as a person and while it wasn't my taste, no doubt it would appeal to many other people and probably older readers.
RATING: 2.5/5 stars