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Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Summary
“Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase, packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem, a free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: twenty-four hours that will transform Allyson’s life. 

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Dayshows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost . . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.”

Review
This book gave me a lot to think about yet anytime you write about time and love, you are going to have a lot to think about. Just One Day is about making the most of the time you have with the one you love at that moment because it is always uncertain how much time you truly have. Also, Just One Day is about how love stains us (of course I think imprint is a better word), leaving a mark upon us, that cannot be removed. Although overall, I would say Just One Day is about making time for love today and not waiting for the right opportunity for it to happen or anything for that matter. “Time is fluid” and so should we be. 

“To be, or not to be” is the questioned poised within the first sentence of this novel. Our leading lady, Allyson Healey has deduced that the question from Shakespeare’s Hamlet may not be posing “to be” but rather should have posed “how to be.” That maybe Allyson was supposed “to be” doing something else besides burning in the hot sun with her best friend Melanie, waiting to see the play Hamlet, which she has already seen. And as if sent from above, a shadow looms over her that turns out to a boy. He tells her (and Melanie) of a group called Guerilla Will who are doing Shakespeare and it will be outside and not confined. Performed the way Shakespeare had intended. Intrigued, Allyson decides “not to be” herself and take a chance to be more adventurous. Thus she breaks her good girl routine and sneaks off to see Guerilla Will.

Having had her adventure, it’s time for her and Melanie to leave the Teen Tour! and head off to England to spend the rest of their summer with Melanie’s relatives. Yet on the train to London, Allyson runs into the boy from Guerilla Will and ironically enough his name is Willem. The two hit it off swimmingly, sparks flying everywhere and Allyson never wants it to end. Thus find the train pulls into London, Willem suggest that she actually go to Paris and throw her plans away and he will take her. It just for one day but it is one day she may never have an opportunity to live again and so they head to Paris. 

They get to Paris and it is not quite what she expected but it is still a wonderful place to be in. And it is even nicer with Willem. Until she runs into one of his exes but can Allyson be jealous, she just met him. However, Willem stills seem to charm his way into Allyson’s heart despite the tons of girls they meet along the way. Willem gets her to be free and to stop just “being” and actually begin “how to be.” Even if it is one day, Willem has stained her and Allyson knows she has stained him and they spend one incredible day as well as one incredible night together. Yet in the morning when she wakes up, she is alone and Willem is gone. 

After that summer, school has started and Allyson in a Pre-med major trying to please her parents but she is in such a state of depression, all she does is sleep and lock herself away from life. Her grades are suffering and she is totally miserable. Will she ever get over Willem or is she fated to remain in this heartbroken state? Of course this is the least of her worries. 

Her parents find out about her grades, but still not about her trip to Paris. And now they are watching her every move and Allyson has to lie harder about who she was that day with Willem and who she wants to be now. Not the perfect, Happy College Kid daughter her parents want but the daughter free to actually be happy. Even if Allyson doesn’t know how. And to make matters worse, there is a rift growing between her and Melanie, between the Allyson she is expected to be and the Melanie that has been reinvented, and Allyson doesn’t think she can fix. And she could use a friend right now. 

So on top of getting over Willem, Allyson has to please her parents and remain the same for her best friend and fight who it is she wants to be. Can she continue the charade with her mom and dad; can she, or even does she want to repair her friendship with Melanie; and can she truly be who she wants to be and does she even know who that person is?

See, as I stated, a lot to think about but some very soul searching questions to be considered. And maybe I am changing my tune about the purpose of this novel. Maybe Just One Day isn’t just about time and love but also self discovering. Okay, so I’m adding a theme, which is also on the summary of the book but I hate to write so much summary into the message of the book. It feels like cheating. 

As I was saying, Just One Day is a thought provoking, self discovery novel that begs the questions of: Who are you? Or rather, who do you want to be and “how to be” that person? Also, Just One Day is about time and how it is flowing and it is not structured or rigid; that you must seize the moment because the moment could be gone in the blink of eye. And this book is also about love and how when someone touches you in your heart, they are there to stay and cannot be removed, no matter what.

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Book Information
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 8/20/2013
Pages: 400

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