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Book Review - JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman
What if Shakespeare had it wrong?
Allyson is the quintessential good girl. She gets straight A’s, listens to her parents, and even plans on following in their footsteps by going pre-med at college in the fall. For now she’s taking part in a summer trip with her fellow graduates that includes parts of Europe. While in England, waiting to go inside the playhouse to see Hamlet, Allyson and her best friend, Melanie, are approached by a traveling acting troupe. They are performing Twelfth Night outside in a few minutes and invite the girls to attend. Tired of being known as cookie-cutter and predictable, Allyson drags Melanie along and they’re captivated by the performance as well as the Dutch actor, Willem. Reality quickly returns at play’s end and the girls head back, preparing to leave for London the next day. By fate or chance Willem boards the exact same train and he convinces Allyson to join him in Paris for one day.
With Melanie covering for her, Allyson completely breaks away from her good girl act and has the time of her life with Willem. Together, they explore the real Paris, have meaningful conversations about love and life, and find common ground in their otherwise very different lives. Following the best day she’s ever had, Allyson wakes up to find Willem gone, without so much as a goodbye note. Heartbroken, Allyson returns to her predictable, boring life a changed girl. What comes next is a year of Allyson going through various emotional stages: depression, heartache, denial, isolation, bitterness, and eventually, acceptance. The result is the first novel in a two part romantic series from bestselling author Gayle Forman (IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT).
JUST ONE DAY is at times romantic, heartbreaking, and realistic as we witness Allyson wrestle with the person she thought she’d be and the person she is meant to become. Willem has opened her up to endless possibilities, showing her love and adventure she never would have seen unless she broke through the mold of the good girl everyone thought she was. Forman allows the reader full access to Allyson’s mind, though you may not always want to be in it. Her struggles are easy to relate to and you can’t help but feel for her. She quickly finds her friendship with Melanie not as strong as it once was since the latter has been going through her own identity changes at NYU. And her family bond begins to sever as they do not understand why their daughter has had a sudden change of heart in her future career choice. Some could argue that she’s overreacting, that it’s crazy to act this way because of a guy, but Willem did more than leave her unexpectedly; he revealed to her the hidden person within. And that person doesn’t necessarily want to follow in her parents’ pre-med footsteps. In fact, that person doesn’t necessarily know what she wants, but knows that she has the time to figure it all out.
More than a romance novel, JUST ONE DAY is a coming-of-age story. Granted, Allyson is eighteen, but when do we ever stop growing as individuals and learn new things about ourselves? Allyson’s journey will inspire you, make you swoon, break your heart, and encourage you. Encourage you to do something that breaks the mold of who you are. Who knows? You may wind up discovering a piece of yourself you never knew you had. This is teetering on preachy, but that’s what Forman does throughout the book. She makes you question your daily routine and asks why you can’t break it for just one day.