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Book Review for ‘Just One Day’ by Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman’s “Just One Day” will leave you wondering: Can the events that occur over just one day change your entire life? Can one person touch you so deeply that you’re never the same again? 

If you’re looking to read a book that inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and take on a new identity for a day, then “Just One Day” by Gayle Forman might be a good fit for you.

If you’re a fan of Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay” and “Where She Went” and were hoping this would be similar, then you might be a bit disappointed. This book is quite different and lacks the emotional depth that Forman injected into “If I Stay,” but it’s still a breezy, fun read that allows you to escape to the hot streets of Paris for a day. The book clearly takes a lot of inspiration from “Before Sunrise”—which, if you do end up enjoying this novel, you should watch if you haven’t already.

Allyson Healey comes from a good home and has wealthy parents who send her on expensive trips, buy her expensive watches, send her to expensive schools, and insist on buying her expensive clothes. Unfortunately it all comes at the cost of her life being controlled down to the minute details, and with the expectation that she will attend medical school. Because of this, she never quite feels like her own person.

Until she meets Willem. Until she starts throwing caution to the wind and calling herself “Lulu.”

When she meets Willem, she finds herself—even though she has to lose parts of herself to do so.

Willem is a tall, blond, Dutch actor who we never get to know enough about. He asks Allyson to go to Paris with him, and after some hemming and hawing, she decides to go, which is completely out of character for her. They tour the city together, and by the end of their journey Allyson has caught intense feelings for Willem. But does he feel the same way? We never really do find out, which is frustrating.

What I liked about this book was that we get to be swept away to Europe for a little while. I also liked that Allyson didn’t just completely forfeit her life over to her mother’s wants, dreams, and desires. This is very much a coming of age story, and in the end Allyson learns that happiness is found in spending life doing what makes you happy, rather than what makes everyone else happy.

What I disliked about this novel was that it was constantly implied that Allyson was this good, innocent, smart girl who didn’t go to bars or do anything angsty, ever. (She was actually a bit too uptight for my liking, and not a very good friend.) But then she meets a good-looking guy and she’s off to Paris—alone—with him and leaving all of her belongings in some seedy bar while they tour the city together.

The romance fell so flat I don’t even have words to describe its flatness. I was left wondering how that one day in Paris could have even stayed with her. Why she liked Willem so much. What did he do that was so great that he stained Allyson’s heart? Because there was nothing between the words I read that indicated that he was anything more than a guy who travels and checks girls out a lot of girls. I wouldn’t even call this an “insta-love” book because there’s no “love” to speak of. It feels like two people who are maybe mildly interested in each other walking through Paris.

I found myself rolling my eyes at times because Allyson was so self-absorbed and ungrateful for basically everything. There was too much moping and whining in this book for my liking. It was like Allyson was used to getting everything she wanted in life, so when Willem disappeared, she acted like a spoiled brat who was entitled to him, and who had to have her way. It was like watching someone take a toy away from a child, really. The child will always cry or sulk after, even if they had zero connection to the toy. This was very much like that.

I love Gayle Forman’s writing, however this novel didn’t feel like it was written by the same author who brought us “If I Stay” and “Where She Went.” It felt hiccupy in some spots and like it was trying too hard to be poetic with the constant mention of Shakespeare. The writing itself is still good, though; Gayle is clearly a talented writer. This just felt . . . different. But that’s normal: authors would get bored writing in the same tone, in the same way, all the time.

My favorite character in the entire book was Dee. I think Forman used a good amount creativity with him and he was just an overall smart, likeable, and funny character. In a book full of bland and, in some cases, underdeveloped characters he was definitely the shining star.

I should also note that  “Just One Day” and its sequel, “Just One Year“, are headed to the big screen. So I will be reading the second book, which is from Wille,’s point of view. I already bought it and plan to read it shortly. Perhaps I’ll like it better. I did like “Where She Went” more than “If I Stay” (I loved both, but I have to pick a favorite, right?), so maybe this will be the same. Maybe I just prefer Gayle Forman’s stories from a male perspective. I would have read the sequel even if there wasn’t a movie coming out—I do believe Forman saved “Just One Day” by the end. I won’t spoil it, but it does leave you hanging and wanting more.

If you read it, enjoy!

Thanks for reading my review of “Just One Day” by Gayle Forman.