Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines..(courtesy of Goodreads)
What does it take for a book to really make you feel something? Many authors pull out sensational stops to suck in the emotions of readers. A parent dies. A boyfriend dies. A dog dies (sob). It's relatively easy to elicit tears. But a book that pulls at every aspect of my emotional psyche and keeps its talons in for days? Much more rare.
Just One Day is an emotional roller coaster not because it deals with any horrible tragedy like death or illness. Rather it's because it deal with commonplace issues that so many of us have experienced or can easily envision: heartbreak, betrayal, loneliness, depression.
Allyson goes on a lark with a strange guy for 24 hours in Paris. When he disappears, Allyson's world falls apart. This sounds hokey. It sounds like insta-love. It's not. It may be a little insta-love, but Allyson's travails over the next year aren't really about Willem at all. It's about Allyson going from a little girl whose life has been shaped by her mother's ambition and her own fears towards a young woman who takes chances and looks for her own happiness over others' expectations.
Although she spells her name "wrong," Allyson at the start of the book is a lot like I was at that age...and some ways, still am. Structured, mature, reserved, cautious. What Allyson has not yet realized is that the her structured life that she pulls around her like a blanket is slowly suffocating her. She wants more out of life. The reader realizes this after Allyson spends this one day with an amazing guy, but Allyson doesn't realize it until 6 months later - a full semester into her freshman year of college.
Allyson's year at college was the most emotionally wrenching part of the book. Not because anything bad happens, but because Allyson is lost. It feels so real. The first year of college can be the most exhilarating time of your life or the most frightening. Allyson no longer wants to be limited by her life jacket, but she doesn't know how to keep herself afloat without it. So she isolates herself. No friends, no fun, no schoolwork. Mostly sleeping.
The book starts to turn from depressing to inspiring as Allyson learns to think for herself. Now it's not "what should I do" but "what do I want to do." Her life becomes more colorful and more joyful as Allyson creates a life for herself.
Just One Day is not really a romance. It's a novel about self-discovery. As such, my review has focused entirely on Allyson even though there are lots of great characters. Most significantly Willem, our 24 hour Dutch guy who you will love and then wonder about. There's also Dee, a hilarious guy who becomes Allyson's support system at college.
Allyson's mother is a key character. It's easy to cast her as a villain and I think the book goes too far in this direction. It's my main criticism of the novel. Her mother is fleshed out a little by the end of the book but too often appears to be a cardboard shrew. Imagining myself in her shoes, I think her reactions to Allyson's sudden irresponsibility and moodiness are not textbook perfect, but are still quite understandable.
Just One Day is a book that will make you realize the importance of shaping your own destiny. How one even can be the catalyst for so much more. It is such a vivid, emotional story that you will forget it's fiction and will cheer, cry, mourn, and rejoice at every turn in Allyson's journey towards life.