45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
I received this book from the Early Reviewers Librarything program in exchange for an honest review.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman is the first book that I've read by this author. Since I've heard a lot of wonderful things about Forman, I knew this was one I wanted to read. This book is about a girl, Allyson (aka Lulu for one day), who is on an abroad program prior to starting college. She meets a boy (a Shakespearean actor of all things) named Willem, who stands for everything she wants to have-- freedom. She has been a coddled only child for her whole life, and primped to become a medical doctor. He spends a glorious day with her in Paris, and then the next morning, vanishes. She ends up in college, in massive depression before she decides to pick up her life and start anew.
I wish that everything I told you happened in 30 pages or less. I'm not even giving you spoilers because everything I've said is in the synopsis on the back. But unfortunately for the reader, this takes up a dragging 3/4 of the book. It's such a stereotypical story-- American girl meets sexy foreign actor, gets dumped, and then is a complete mess, over a guy that she met for ONE DAY. I mean I know the author is trying to branch out and make this out to be how she is finding herself, but it's all geared towards this guy she doesn't even know.
Then something changes. I can even tell you exactly where it does-- page 234. Allyson stops feeling sorry for herself (which she does for SO MANY PAGES), and gets her life back together. The rest of the book is pretty darn good. And it makes me sad that it could have been so much more. This book suffers from "build up" syndrome. The first 200+ pages should have been compressed, and the rest would be the meat of the story. As it is, we are left with a cliffhanger, and the promise that a SECOND book, about Willem is coming. Are you freakin' kidding me?!
Overall, I found this book to be trite and boring that really only came to life in the last 100 pages. It's too bad. This couplet of books should have been one stand alone book.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2014
There’s too much stupid in this book for me to like it. And the funny thing is, it’s aware of all its stupid. It points its stupid out. And I’m like, does that make all the stupid okay? No. No it doesn’t. You could argue that knowing something’s incredibly stupid is far worse because that means you had the power to stop the stupid, and you didn’t. Girls like Allyson are the reason why most fresh-faced, doe-eyed college kids all eager to study abroad get the don’t-get-pregnant/don’t-get-engaged/don’t-run-away speech from study abroad organizers. They’re all sitting there, weathering the ridiculousness of that speech, thinking, "what wacko goes and gets pregnant/engaged/runs away in a breezy three month period? Hahahahaha"
What’s even worse about it is the author paints our main idiot here, Allyson, like a sensible good girl. I think if you want to write a book about stupid, go all out. Make the main character as effed up as possible. Give us a downward spiral and then maybe redeem her in the end. Because then the shenanigans would make sense. I mean, really, am I supposed to applaud her for not going out drinking with her friends, and then cheer her on when she takes up with a complete stranger and surrenders all of her belongings to more strangers so she can run around doing nothing particularly noteworthy in a country she doesn’t speak a lick of the language in? Really Allyson? You couldn’t just go to a damn pub with your friends? I feel like I read a lot of books about women who are “good” that are tired of being “good” and just want to be a more exciting version of themselves. And okay, I get that. Who doesn’t. But it becomes problematic when “good” is translated to “uptight” and adventurous becomes stupid. AND SOMEHOW ADVENTUROUS IS STILL PREFERRED. You could say the subtext of this book is, women just need to be a big hunk of stupid more often, because accidents are fun! Which feels like an exaggeration, but the more I think about this, the more I realize how much of a crusade this is against sense. Jane Austen would be horrified.
I hate that trope - and it’s not just YA because stupid knows no age! - that all a sensible good girl needs to do is loosen up a little bit. And not only does she need to loosen up but of course a guy must be the one to show her how. A hot guy. Sorry all ugly men: Girls won’t go stupid for you. Because that’s why Allyson takes up with Willem. He’s a blond, 6’3, Dutch guy. They hardly know a thing about each other, but he’s got sparkly eyes and a playful smile so, "Okay I’ll go with you to Paris. Oh, you like my watch? It’s SUPER expensive!" *giggle giggle* She didn’t even bring a friend. Buddy system anyone? That’s “Not Dying in Europe 101” right there.
Given the fact that there’s a sequel in Willem’s POV, I’m sure there’s a lovely explanation for the way things ended (I’m guessing kidnapped by skinheads). Whatever it is, it still doesn’t forgive the fact that Allyson did everything you’re not supposed to do in Europe as a woman. Because that’s the other part of this. Traveling is different for women. A guy saying "Accidents are fun, throw caution to the wind!" is saying that with an advantage. That’s unfortunately the world we live in. And, no, joking about being sold into the sex trade doesn’t mean it won’t happen, Allyson. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence.
There’s a part of me that thinks authors are afraid to write about truly messed up girls. Maybe they think it’s not YA appropriate? I read The Panopticon recently, which isn’t in fact a YA novel but centers around a 15 year old, and it’s an excellent example of how an author can depict a lost, confused, stupid girl that I have sympathy for. My issue with this book isn’t that Allyson was incredibly dumb, but that she was incredibly dumb in spite of her sense. There are people who have no sense because they had terrible upbringings, because no one cares for them, because no one taught them, whatever the reasons may be, and as a reader I root for those types of characters to find themselves, to rise above their circumstances and be better people. And I’m sad for them if they don’t. I had no emotional journey with Allyson. I can sympathize with a person having an identity crisis, especially at her age, but I can’t sympathize with someone who thinks doing legitimately dangerous things because oh-god-my-life’s-so-safe-and-boring-woe-is-me is the way to self discovery.
The first part of the book that revolves around the one day in Paris kind of killed the rest of the book for me. Which is too bad because her freshman year of college was a nice section of the book. It was relatable, and there aren’t as many books about college as there are high school so it’s refreshing too. I think college is when most people grow into who they’re going to become and that’s a story in itself. But the book drags to its cliffhanger conclusion. And in between, Forman seriously manhandles Shakespeare. Like, okay, we get it, people wear masks and pretend to be who they’re not, but maybe they are a bit like that, or at least they want to be. The theme was played out at the halfway point; but like a baby you’re trying to take your car keys away from, that theme had an iron grip on this story. In the end, it was too long. And while a cliffhanger ending in theory should spur people to read the next book, there were too many turn offs for me to care.
44 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2013
'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.'
Admittedly, I do believe I started this when I was in the completely wrong sort of mood. I totally killed this story for myself in the beginning and could not get into it. I was mentally flashing to scenes from 'Taken' and kept waiting for her to start using her brain and NOT get on the train with the complete stranger BY HERSELF to PARIS where she's never been before, barely has any money, and can't speak the language. I can understand getting caught up in the moment and feeling a connection to someone so much that you just lose yourself in the moment... but this was just downright reckless and so potentially dangerous that it sucked all enjoyment out of it for me.
Allyson was such a strange and unrealistic narrator. Always the smart girl, the girl who played it safe, and then she meets Willem and he unlocks a side of her that she herself didn't know existed. Allyson had been on a tour of Europe for several weeks but had never got to see Paris, so he asks for her to go with him there. And this is where I get even MORE disturbed. They have one single day in Paris and it ended up being the most random, jumbled and seemingly unenjoyable day. So it wasn't the type of day spent in Paris like you see in the movies but they didn't even DO anything! So much beauty surrounded them and for part of it they ended up taking a nap in the park? Are you kidding me? If I had a single day in Paris and I needed to nap I'd be pounding the red bulls and trying to get the most I could out of that day.
'We kiss again. This next kiss is the kind that breaks open the sky. It steals my breath and gives it back. It shows me that every other kiss I've had in my life has been wrong.'
I'm not saying that it's impossible to meet someone and only after a single day they have somehow managed to change a piece of you forever. I believe that can happen; I've felt it. But I didn't feel it while reading this and I was left dumbfounded and confused to what Willem did exactly to evoke such a long-lasting reaction. I just didn't' believe it strongly enough. My other issue was with the fact that she attributed this other her, "Lulu", as a result of being with Willem. It was disheartening to see her give up that new her just because he disappeared. I would have liked to see her take the situation for what it was: a life lesson that opened her eyes to how different she could live her life and actually enjoy it in the process. But instead she crawled deeper into her shell than she had before.
Of course I have to read the follow-up because it's obvious that Allyson was lacking in answers and I can only hope we receive some resolution (that is logical too) from Willem's side of things. And hello cliffhanger, thanks for that. Not terribly pleased with the story itself but there's really no denying it, Gayle Forman can write one entrancing story.
*All quotes taken are from an uncorrected proof*
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2013
Just One Day is a book that delighted me! In every way, I just felt like this was the perfect book for me to read right now, it made me yearn for travel, being 18 again, taking chances and finding myself.
Just One Day is the story of Allyson, who finally decides to take a chance, do something she wants to do and go with the flow. After a trip around Europe where she was supposed to get to know more about culture, she is a little fed-up, and instead of going with their group to see Hamlet, Allie and her best friend Mel decide to ditch everybody else and rather go see Guerilla Will perform The Twelfth Night. For the first time, Allie feels free, and she also understands Shakespeare a lot better, while running around with the actors who are performing by the river rather than on a stage.
Allyson has always strived to be the good daughter, especially since she remember her parents trying very hard to have another child, and in the end not making it. When she meets Willem, one of the actors from the Guerilla Will troupe, on the train to London, and he recognizes her from the night before things get interesting very fast. Instead of staying three days in London with Mel, she takes the Eurostar to Paris to spend a day with Will there.
And that is just what the main story is about - how much can change in one single day. The way we see ourselves, the way we see the world, what we dream about, and how we go about trying to reach our dreams. Willem is really wonderful, even if he is a serial dater, with a little black book where he has the address of all the girls he's hooked up with across Europe.
Of course, a lot of things do happen during that day in Paris, but the important thing is how Allie deals with it afterwards, how she still continues to let her mother make all of her decisions, even during her first semester away in college. I got pretty annoyed with the mom! Who actually acts that way with their child? She re-arranges Allies dorm-room when it's parents day, and she actually thinks she's doing her daughter a favor. I did get a little annoyed with Allie as well, but I could still totally get where she was coming from.
As the story moves forward, Allie finally gets that she needs to open up to the people around her, share things with them, and even remembers how she was taught how to make friends in kindergarten. As she gets new friends, she also gets stronger, and she changes her classes to do things she wants to do, not what her mom wants her to do. It felt liberating reading about it, and I think it's actually important for people of all ages to think about why we do the things we do. And sometimes, we need to think about what we actually want to do - we do have some choices to make after all.
I absolutely loved how Allie grew stronger, how she managed to tell her parents she wasn't doing pre-med anymore, and that she was going to go to back to Paris that summer instead of taking any of the un-paid jobs her mom had lined up for her. And she worked very hard, both to get enough money, and to learn a little French before she went back. She was so much braver when she arrived in Paris the second time, talking to people, making friends, even going to confront her nemesis - in the search of Willem, and of herself.
This is getting to be one of my longest reviews ever, but there was just so much to love in this book! I loved the descriptions of Paris, I recognized the Villette, the Canals, the Latin quarter and a lot of other things, and I always appreciate it when places are written true to form. It also made me really, really hungry for a macaron!
So, make yourself happy! Read this book, and let me know later what you thought about it!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2013
Well, while I liked the book enough while reading it and would have given it closer to three stars, the ending just sucked both the good feeling and the third star away.
It's the story of freshly graduated (from high school) Allyson, a tightly wound, most decidedly UNindividuated eighteen year-old. We learn Allyson has had a sheltered life and is nearly a marionette, so closely controlled and dictated by her parents is she. While she's not scared of her own shadow, she is scared to try new things, to deviate from the straight and narrow path onto which she has been firmly placed by her parents.
As a graduation gift her parents have sent her on a "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium" cultural tour of Europe for teens. There she meets a Dutch actor, Willem, and so the story goes. She and her best friend, Melanie (also on the trip), are due to spend the final few nights in London with Melanie's cousin, but Willem has opened a door for Allyson and she wants to go through it, she wants to try something new. So she and Willem go off to Paris together.
While there isn't enough dialogue (plus, they're kids) it made me, of course, think of "Before Sunrise," the wonderful movie of strangers meeting and spending the day together.
Allyson returns to the US to attend her freshman year of college and struggles: she no longer has the omnipresence of her parents (esp her mother) which had left little room for freedom of choice, plus the experience she had with Willem really started her belated understanding of who she is, who she wants to be, how she can achieve it. Common to many freshman, though, Allyson also alienates herself and that just digs her a deeper hole.
To avoid spoilers I won't give any more plot points, so I'm not sure how to dance around the incredibly disappointing and cheap ending. Honestly. What a letdown. As a girl I'd read and fallen in love with Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice"; when the movie was available on VHS (because that's how old I am) I watched it and thought "what?!?" The movie version ended exactly at the halfway point, and it wasn't designed to have a sequel. (The miniseries starring dreamy Bryan Brown was complete -- phew!) Reading the end of "Just One Day" left me with the same "what?!?" feeling, although this time due to age, maturity, experience, etc., I also shook my head at the author's laziness.
While it was an okay ride, following entitled, overly-pampered Allyson's journey as she figured out (rather late, embarrassingly enough for her) that she can be responsible for herself (although she has so much good luck rain upon her it again felt like lazy writing) and can demand that from others (namely her parents and Melanie, her wavering friend), it was just okay. And the ending blew it. Am I glad I read it? Maybe. Will I reread it? No. Would I recommend it? Not without significant caveats.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
My Thoughts: When I found out that Gayle Forman had a new book out, without even reading what it was about I knew I had to get my hands on this book. I remember reading If I Stay and it's sequel both in one day and being completely mesmerized by the beautiful story that she had created and never did I recall shedding so many tears during a book. (and yes I cried more than when Dumbledore died and I didn't think that would ever be possible). And here we go again, with me finishing another one of Forman's books in one sitting. I woke up this morning at 7am and picked it up and found myself finishing the book a few hours later with a sigh and running to goodreads to see when the sequel comes out. Luckily it's later this year in October.
What I liked: The main character in this book is Allyson a recent high school graduate who is on a three week European vacation right before she starts her first year in College. It is a story about a girl who had every decision in her life made for her by her overbearing mother. She is in London as her trip is comming to an end watching her best friend have the time of her life and all she can think about is going home. In this process she meets Willem who changes her mood and well frankly her life forever. With one day left in her trip she makes a sudden decision to follow this guy she just met to Paris for the day and things go not according to her well-laid plans. Yes this book is love story, but not in the way you think it would be. Allyson is searching for love, but she searching for love of herself. This is a comming of age story, which combines love for literature, the love of travel, the love of meeting new people and exploring new cultures and for the most part being true to yourself. I was blown away with this girls struggle and loved exploring London, Paris and all the different locations through her eyes. Yes there is a great guys in this book as well and I am looking forward to the next book which will be told in his perspective. Finishing this book makes me want to go dust off my passport, grab a world map, close my eyes and pick a destination and fly off. But alas I have 8 months off nursing school left. Who knows maybe I will give myself a graduation present :)
What I didn't Like: Haven't to wait until October to find out more about Willem! I am really looking forward to seeing what his story is all about!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2014
As i was reading this book, I thought to myself, this sounds so familiar. Where have I heard this story before? Then I remembered the movie Love Affair and a lightbulb went off. All this book is the same storyline just packaged as a book. Girl meets boy, boy convinces girl to embrace life, they spend one perfect day together and are supposed to meet the next day. Then (SPOILERS) something happens and girl is stood up, thinking boy never loved her. Then you find out boy was really in accident and was going to meet her! UGH! Such a waste of time!. Author needs to come up with an original idea! And don't even get me started on the ending!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
As much as I enjoyed Forman's IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT, both were only 4-star stories for me. They were enjoyable, emotional, and extremely intense - but something kept me from loving them. Whatever I was missing from those two novels, JUST ONE DAY has it. Allyson Healey's journey begins after a chance encounter with Willem, who offers to take her Paris for an incredible, chaotic day of adventure. But the next day, he's gone, she's alone, and so begins the next adventure as Allyson attends college, takes a Shakespeare class, figures out who she is and where she's going next in this bittersweet coming of age story.
It may be a story you've heard before: Girl meets boy, instant and intense connection, one memorable and romantic adventure that ends far too quickly and messily. But, Forman knows her characters intricately, and it shows because the characters - with their quirky and endearing qualities - are the ones who lift the story up and make it fly. JUST ONE DAY is the most perfectly imperfect story of love, loss, friendship, chance, change, random acts of kindness*, independence, misunderstandings, and bravery. I wish I could do this novel some justice by giving it a remarkable review that inspires someone to pick this book up, but I guess I'll have to settle for simply saying this: do not let this story pass you by.
HIGHLIGHTS: Forman features imperfect characters and situations. Allyson isn't perfect or a cookie-cutter heroine, but flawed and evolving. Forman expertly writes emotion, making you grin at the flirty banter, blush at the more romantic moments, and even stirs sympathy deep within your core as Allyson finds herself in her lowest moment. The characters** and locations*** are wonderfully written. I especially love the helpfulness and kindness of the some of the side characters. Life and friendships are not easy and don't always work out as you reach adulthood, so I appreciate Forman for portraying Allyson's life (every up and down) as realistically as possible.
LOWLIGHTS: Waiting for the sequel? Yes, that's a definite lowlight. I need JUST ONE YEAR and I need it now. *glares at calendar*
* Seriously, there were some moments where I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, just because of the kindness random characters showed to Allyson and other characters. I like to hope that there are plenty of people like that in the world.
** Dee! I adore Dee. And Willem, too.
*** Paris! I want to go there so badly. It sounds lovely.
**** Received an unsolicited ARC of the novel from publisher, and purchased a paperback copy at a later date.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
Wait till the sequel comes out so you can avoid the withdrawal and frustration you will feel when you get to the end in, probably, just one day. This book I would venture to guess will highly appeal to teenage girls trying to discover themselves as well as adult women who know what that journey is like. All this set with a leave you breathless romance and a European trip. This is a book that reminds you how pleasurable reading a book can feel.
I don't know how much of this book's appeal to me was the European trip experience but as someone who was an exchange student and has lived for extended periods of time in Europe, this book is spot on in some many aspects of that cultural experience. First from Forman's descriptions of the cities in the book, it is clear that she knows her off the beaten tourist track places. How one insignificant street corner or new food can become the experience. The laid back polyglot Dutch, the Australians' years -long treks, the French pff, the transcendental experience of Sacre Coeur, a church that truly does outshine the hundreds of churches on any Euro-tour. Yes the main character, Allyson, has to deal with snooty French, but she also sees that not all French are snooty and that Paris can be amazing with the right guide.
Now for the romance. Maybe it's a little unbelievable that you can meet and fall in love with someone about whom you know 8 facts and that within just one day, but I know a girl who had an immediate and unbelievable connection to someone she met standing in line for concert tickets and whose name she didn't even know. So I can believe the romance. Forman's description of Allyson falling in love sounded so much like my friend's breathless recounting of her night.
The self-discovery journey too felt so real. Yes many characters in the book think Allyson is crazy for being so depressed over a guy who ditched her after one night, but the experience of meeting someone like Willem could set off tremors throughout your life. This person so affects you that you question all your beliefs. I have met people like that. Allyson needed to break away from her helicoptering mom and I think it was only possible by meeting someone like Willem.
The reason I give this book only 4 stars is that although it is so enjoyable and realistic, there isn't anything that elevates it to future classic.. I know, since when is that critical, but when comparing it to other "realistic" YA fiction, there is better.
As with Forman's other series If I Stay, the second book will be the male character's point of view of the relationship. This worked wonderfully in that series and I so can't wait to hear what kinds of accidents prevented Willem from making it back to Allyson.
Parental information: this book, like Forman's others, emphasizes the "adult" in young adult. The characters are 18- twenty something and more mature in every way. There is a sex scene that is explicit for YA standards though not approaching 50 Shades territory. There is drinking and risky behavior.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2014
It's very difficult to read a book when the main character is simply unlikable. Nonetheless, I plowed through it over a month's time. While it is true that most teenagers are self-absorbed, this one takes the cake. She is irritating and ungrateful. Bored with Europe, a trip her parents gave her for graduation, nothing ever seems to be enough for her. So she runs off to Paris with a complete stranger, for no apparent reason. So let's ignore the fact that any girl who does what Allyson does in this book is likely to end up in a dark alley raped and with her throat cut.
In spite of a weak plot, Allyson's character improves significantly in the final two or three chapters. Unfortunately, the character change happens way too late to save the story. Most of the events in the story happen without rhyme or reason, particularly breaking into an art or "squat" house, when the area is loaded with youth hostels. Skip Just One Day and read If I Stay by the same author.