Customer Reviews: Just One Day
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on February 3, 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.
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on February 15, 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.
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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*
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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!
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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.
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VINE VOICEon January 8, 2013
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.
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on September 24, 2014
I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis of Just One Day and eagerly dived into the story. Allyson reminded me of myself, which is probably why I liked her so much. Here was a girl who played it safe, never taking risks and living her life by the book. Then she met Willem, a traveling actor who changed her entire outlook on life. She only spent one day with him, yet in that one day he turned her world upside down. I loved seeing Allyson step out of her comfort zone and do something unexpected and impetuous. It was easy to understand why she was drawn to Willem, as I myself found him very intriguing.

I have to admit that as the book went on the plot was different than what I had expected, but I thought it worked very well. For me the story was truly about Allyson's personal journey and growth. I also liked how the book touched on friendships and how they can change as time passes. There were definitely parts of Allyson's journey that broke my heart. After her time with Willem she was so lost and had some very important decisions to make about her future. This book was so full of ups and downs, and I really enjoyed watching Allyson's transformation. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book and reading the continuation of Allyson and Willem's story.
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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!
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on February 23, 2016
I absolutely adored Just One Day. I had been reading fantasy/dystopian books nonstop lately, and it was kind of nice to read a book that could bring me back to reality a little bit. But I didn’t just love the book because it was a nice change from the usual. There was so much that I loved about the book as a standalone.

Just One Day is about a girl named Allyson who is on a graduation trip in Europe. On the last day, she meets a guy named Willem, and she randomly decides to run off with him and explore Paris for a day. In a single day, she falls in love and gets her heart broken.

This may seem like its a typical story about falling in love in Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. But its so much more, I promise you. When I first saw the title, I thought that this was going to be 300+ pages about 24 hours. However, the events in the book take course over a year. The story is much more than just about a whirlwind romance, its more about finding yourself. When you’re 18, fresh out of high school and going into your first year of college, a lot of things can happen and sometimes you just need to jump into the unknown to start that discovery of yourself.

At first, I was unsure if I was going to like Allyson. She seemed to be a bit of a control freak in that recluse sort of way. She had never done anything to call herself brave. However, the character development in this book was phenomenal. She was such an obedient girl when the book started, but by the end she was a strong woman who was brave. She was able to stand up to her parents, rush off to Europe, and face the one thing that has been haunting her. Her journey was more about herself than it was about some guy she fell in love with. I felt as though she was so brave for facing the things that she knew scared her and the things that were unfamiliar to her.

One thing I was happy to see was that Allyson was brave enough to admit that she was scared. She was able to gain courage, but still admit that she was vulnerable. I liked this aspect a lot because sometimes I see characters who start off as scared but later become courageous, but also maintain the idea that they are almost invincible. Its admirable to know that you can be that courageous, but sometimes its good to know that you can be both courageous and vulnerable at the same time.

So, I have to mention this. This book made me crave macaroons like crazy. They were always talking about them in the book. A couple of months ago, I was dying to try them out for the first time. It wasn’t until a month ago that the bakery that I like to go to actually had them in stock. They were made fresh, but they’d fly off the shelves before I would even show up. Once I had one, I fell in love. I haven’t had one since, and that’s a shame. So, now I want one. Also, this book made me want to go to Paris. I wanted to go to Paris and have a macaroon, just like Allyson. I’ve been to London, and its amazing. I should have taken the two hour trek to Paris, but it just never happened. After reading this book, I made the promise to myself to go do all those things.

So, with that being said, I love when a book makes me want to do things like that. I am a traveler at heart, and the book made me realize how much more of the world I want to see. When you can connect to a book like that, you know you’ve found a good one. I recommend this book to almost anyone. If you’re looking for a good romantic read, a book to help you find yourself, or just a good read, this one can relate to to so many aspects of a person’s life.
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on January 11, 2013
I can already tell that my words are not going to be adequate enough to explain just how deeply I loved Just One Day by Gayle Forman. I have started and restarted this review over and over, but nothing sounds quite right. All I can say is that I adore this book, and I knew with every page I read that I was in the middle of reading a book that was going to be one of my all time favorites. Since finishing the book I want to sit and relive each moment again in my mind, and I am already itching to begin reading it again. It is that good. In so many ways this reminds me of the way that I feel after returning home from an amazing vacation. I just have this feeling inside me that NEEDS to relive all the highlights again and again in my head until they are permanently etched into my psyche.

Just One Day is the story of a journey. Allyson begins the novel at the end of a European tour she has taken as a graduation present from her parents. After a trip with very little adventure or deviation from the carefully determined itinerary, Allyson decides to sneak to an underground Shakespeare production where a Dutch actor named Willem is performing. One thing leads to another, and soon Allyson is headed to Paris with Willem for a one day adventure. And what an amazing day it was! In a short span of twenty-four hours Allyson changes ... more than she even realizes. Things seem perfect until she wakes up the next morning to find that Willem has seemingly abandoned her, breaking her heart in the process. What follows is a year of self-discovery as Allyson learns that she is not the girl she thought she was. Through a long and difficult process Allyson finally begins to live. I'll leave the plot description at that. This is a book that you have to discover as you read it. So beautiful.

Some of my thoughts:

I could relate to Allyson's journey in so many ways. She was a likeable lead character for this story. I rooted for her to find success. I felt like I could feel every spectrum of emotion that she was going through ... her heartache, her joy, her depression, her excitement. This could have easily become a book bogged down by depression and whining as Allyson dealt with the aftermath of Willem's disappearance. But it didn't. It was not exactly a story about a girl pining after a lost love, although there was some of that in the story. It was more about Allyson's growth into her own person after a lifetime of living her parents' dreams. Willem is awesome, but he is a bit of an enigma. He isn't around for most of the novel, and the truth is that Allyson (and so also I, the reader)don't really get to know much about him at all. His character and motivations are often a mystery. I want to like him, and I did like him ... a lot. But I did spend a bit of time wondering if I was making the right decision in liking him so much. The book was so well-written that it took a story that could have become melodramatic and turned it into something deep and moving and thought-provoking. I LOVED the Shakespeare references found throughout the novel. I seriously want to go out and read some Shakespeare right now ... OUT LOUD. I can't say that a novel has ever inspired me to do that.

The ending is not a cliffhanger, but OH MY WORD!, when I got to the last line I was not ready for it to be done. I turned the page, hoping for an epilogue or something. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to these characters. I felt like I had traveled this huge journey with Allyson, all the way to the end, but then I didn't quite get to see what happened next. And oh how I want to know what happens next to Willem and Allyson! Thank goodness that there is a second book in this series coming out with Willem's point of view. I CAN'T WAIT! Seriously, I need this book to be here soon.

Final verdict: Go out and get this book now! It is definitely one of my favorite ya contemporary books ever. I highly, highly recommend it. Five huge stars!
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