January 8, 2013
Series: Book one in the Just One Day duology
Just One Day by Gayle Forman follows the story of an 18 year-old girl Allyson, on tour with her best friend Melanie, in Europe. There, Allyson meets a charming Dutch boy, Willem, and he decides to take her on a one-day trip to Paris– just the two of them. After a series of events that causes her to end up alone, she returns home in the US, wondering where Willem went. As she starts school at her new college, she learns to find herself in the most unexpected way.
I have rather conflicting feelings about Just One Day. Mostly it was the beginning and middle where things were shaky, but by the end, I was completely and utterly satisfied. Nevertheless, I still had problems with this book, and I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed with Just One Day.
One of my first issues with entering Allyson’s story was the fact that I couldn’t connect with her. It’s always hard to explain why a reader doesn’t or isn’t able to connect with a character since it’s based solely on personal experiences, but in this case, Allyson was not relatable for me. She wasn’t a bad character, but she wasn’t exactly outstanding, either. Allyson does grow and there is some self-discovery going on (which I love), so my liking for her does get better, but the connection between me and her was a significant problem in the start. Additionally, the romance between Allyson and Willem wasn’t the strongest. It is technically a case of insta-love, since they do fall in love within a day in Paris. After Willem mysteriously disappeared, I didn’t understand why Allyson was so hung up on Willem, even after a year. I saw a bond between them, but not the strongest one.
I was also bothered by the way the Paris setting was executed. Don’t get me wrong, the Paris atmosphere that Forman told was gorgeous and extremely realistic, but the time that the characters (Allyson and Willem) spent in Paris felt too much like a copy-cat of Anna and the French Kiss. I found myself constantly comparing the two stories, and I hated how similar it was. So, the general comment about the Paris setting: loved all of the imagery, but I disliked the intense similarity to Anna.
As the reader delves deeper into the novel, there comes a point where Allyson returns to the States, and this is where the story slows down. A lot. Even though tons of new characters are introduced in this section of the novel, I wasn’t particularly interested in any of them. It was quite boring to read about Allyson’s college life, also because she was sulky and dark the entire time.
It wasn’t until the last part of Just One Day that it started to pick up again. By this point, Allyson is set on doing what she wants to do: find Willem. The obstacles that she went through were highly entertaining and definite page-turners. Allyson meets even more characters; these characters I easily fell in love with, which probably added to my enjoyment factor. The ending wrapped up beautifully and it wasn’t until then that I realized what the entire middle section was for: the buildup for the conclusion. It was done quite masterfully, so this ended up being a redeeming factor.
In all, Just One Day was a let-down for me. There were so many factors that bothered me the entire time, and it wasn’t until the ending that really bumped it up a star for me. However, it is Gayle Forman, for which her writing definitely made this book a whole lot more enjoyable. From the main character and romance to the Paris setting, these were factors that left me disappointed. Luckily, the way the story wraps up is breathtakingly so, leaving the story on a good note. I’m not sure if I’m willing to pick up Just One Year, but since it’s Gayle Forman, I think just might.
RATING: 3.5 / 5