Friday, 23 August 2013

Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day
Just One Day #1
Gayle Forman
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 10th January 2013

I read Gayle Forman's Just One Day on holiday a good few weeks ago and I've been unable to get it out of my head ever since. I loved Gayle's previous books If I Stay and Where She Went and can vividly remember sitting at my kitchen table bawling my eyes out with my daughters looking at me in a "Mummy's clearly went a bit mad what do we do" kind of way. Forman's books seem to be guaranteed to bring out all kinds of emotions for me.

Basically Just One Day is the story of Allyson "Lulu" Healey and Dutch boy Willem De Ruiter's short time together and the huge impact this one day had on Allyson. Allyson is a kind of straight laced American teenager, her tour of Europe has been a bit too touristy and therefore disappointing but this changes when she meets actor and traveller Willem and they connect in the most amazing way. He offers to take her to Paris for the day and show her the real Paris that the tour buses miss. Their one day in Paris which is full of fun and flirty adventures leads to one night together but when Allyson wakes up Willem has gone, as in really gone and he doesn't come back.

For me, the real story in Just One Day was how Allyson was absolutely wholeheartedly affected by their one day together. Not knowing what exactly happened to Willem or why he left her without even a thought leaves Allyson feeling she that couldn't have been enough for someone like Willem to stay with. Almost crawling into a little ball for protection, Allyson spends the next few months in her first year of college like a girl who has been devastated by a full on break up with long term boyfriend. Withdrawn, heartbroken and lost Allyson seems unable to enjoy her college experience and her once perfect grades are affected.

With the help of her only new friend Dee (who I loved to bits) thankfully Allyson gradually starts to come back to life and decides that she has to face her fears, go back to Paris and try to resolve the mystery of what happened to Willem. Without financial help from her parents Allyson first needs to get a job to pay for her trip and the French lessons she decides are necessary. I loved Allyson's gradual reawakening as she throws off her cautious, mousey pre-Paris self and finally grows a set! Her trip back to Paris isn't the tour bus trip, this time she's prepared, can speak French and isn't afraid of veering off the beaten track and befriending people along the way to help her on her quest.

For me a book is really, really special when I can make a list of swoon worthy scenes or quotes which sum up how amazing the book was for me and Just One Day has so many to choose from:
  • Double happiness- two halves finding each other,
  • Love being a stain,
  • Real travelling is getting lost in a city,
  • The next accident will send you somewhere new,
  • Taking real pictures on the barge trip along the Seine,
  • Lulu and Will on one bike cycling around Paris,
  • Seeing Shakespeare's As You Like It in the park,
  • Having a bucket list of paintings to see. 
Just One Day is exactly the kind of beautiful but heart breaking YA book that I adore, Allyson's coming of age story literally swept me away and I'm still thinking about it weeks later. Willem really did change Allyson's life in one day but she managed to find herself again all by herself. I can't wait to see Willem's point of view when Just One Year is released on the 10th of October.

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