Just One Day by Gayle Forman
4 out of 5 stars
I was going to wait a while to get this book, but I just couldn't. I wanted to be part of the popular crowd and get it right away lol. I really enjoyed this book, but it didn't have the emotional punch of If I Stay for me. Also, I hate to say this, but the amount of typos was ridiculous. Get a new proof-reader, Gayle, stat! I was tempted to go thru with my red pen. :P Anyway, that's not important really. The story is and the story was good. I wouldn't really call this a "romance", although there is romance in it, but more of a coming-of-age story. I hate that phrase though, so how about a "growing up, finding out who you are" story? (If you're looking for a great romance, try Anna & The French Kiss. <3)
Allyson is growing up and she's not sure what that means. Nor do her parents, especially her mom. This book explores her journey as she tries to figure out who she is. Is she the neat, color-coded schedule making, straight A student, responsible child destined to be a doctor, always complacent and compliant 18 year old her parents think she is? Is she the smart but cute and fun college girl her best friend, Melanie, wants her to be? Or, and here's the big one, is she reinventing herself as Lulu, the adventurous, emotional, loving girl that a young Dutch boy sees? I think we've all had that moment in our lives (or two or sixteen or a hundred moments) where we just wanted to be someone else. Anyone but ourselves. So I don't blame Allyson for feeling a kind of relief when she meets Willem on her travels around Europe the summer after senior year and he gives her an opportunity/excuse to be someone else for awhile.
I may have pretended to be someone named Lulu, but I had never been more honest in my life. Maybe that's the thing with liberation. It comes at a price.
This may put me in the minority, but I didn't really care for Willem. At least not in this book, maybe I will in the sequel. Sure, I saw the appeal of a young, hot, foreign guy who is interested in the quiet, shy girl. Who doesn't? ;) But I didn't feel the connection or chemistry between Willem and Allyson. That said, I can't wait for Just One Year (due out in October supposedly, so not too long of a wait). And now I'm going to put up the spoiler owl to talk about specifics, because I really feel you should give this book a chance (as if you weren't already!) all on its own merits and make your own opinions. Then come back and see mine. :)
I was kind of surprised when I ended up liking the second half of the novel much more than the first. Allyson felt very stiff at first, which I suppose was intentional, but that resulted in me feeling very uncomfortable with her. I loved the Shakespeare references (so much, that I downloaded Twelfth Night onto my Kindle after finishing this). The bits where they spoke in a different language got on my nerves a bit, only because I didn't know what they were saying lol. (I never could figure out the Chinese one) I liked the travelling ideals: "you can be in Paris by lunchtime", "time is fluid", getting lost on purpose, etc.
Love as a "stain" intrigued me. How many times, as a teen, did you fall in and out of love? (Or as a finicky adult for that matter.) How many times were you in love? Do I think Willem and Lulu were in love? Not really. I think Lulu fell in love with Willem. I can't really say the same for Willem. Yet. I guess we'll see in the sequel. I wonder what the story is with his parents. And all the girls. I hope it's not as skeezy as it seemed.
The thing I loved so much about the second half was that, even though Allyson did collapse and flounder for a while, she pulled herself back up. All on her own. He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found. She didn't have a prince swoop in and save her. She learned her lessons the hard way. How to deal with her incredibly overbearing mother and passive father. How to take control of her life and school. How to make new friends while letting go of some old ones. I loved Dee. I think he was adorable and needs his own story. :)
And then...Allyson learns how to get closure. She decides to go back to Paris and find out what really happened. Even when that means telling her parents the truth and earning her own money to get there. When she got the job at the cafe, I was as proud as if she was my sister (same name even). And when she gets semi-fluent in French, I was impressed. Languages are hard, man. And when she battled the airplane and train station and stood up to Celine all on her own, I cheered. I think it would be fun to travel sometime all by myself. Getting to do exactly what YOU want to do and no one else making decisions for you. I don't know if I would do a foreign country, but maybe Rhode Island hah! (Confession: ever since I did a report on the state in the 5th grade, I've had a weird obsession with visiting RI. I know, my family doesn't get it either.)
So, let's make some predictions for Willem's story, 'k? Obviously, he went to get them breakfast and ran into those thugs from the park, who beat him senseless. He ended up at the hospital, dazed & confused for a few hours, suddenly remembers Lulu, and runs off to see if she's still there. She's not, duh, and he searches all the places they went the day before. Nothing. Dejected, he returns home, where he may or may not have had a falling out with his parents before his 2 year sojourn. Something big happened, that's for sure. And all those girls? Just friends, friends of friends, friends that wanted more. Which is what Lulu started as, but the more time and distance between that one day, the more Willem can't stop thinking about her. Is he stained? Maybe, but I think they have rough times ahead still.