Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Published: January 8, 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
Received: ARC on loan from a friend
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. [goodreads]
There is something so right written in the pages of this beautiful story told by Gayle Forman. It's not just one thing that made it right though. It's a series of unforgettable right moments. The kind that leave you yearning for so much more, yet just as satisfied with what's been given. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, I cherished... my soul went through every imaginable feeling possible as I devoured this breathtaking story. As a reader who has already established a respect for Forman's writing, I had very high expectations with this novel. It is safe to say she's lived up to them, and has gone so far beyond that I didn't even know it was possible to love her writing even more.
Allyson is on what some would call a "trip of a lifetime". She's been given the opportunity to visit some of Europe's most popular cities, along side her best friend, and several other eager teens on this tour. As they embark from city to city, one culture to the next, but everything feels lacking to Allyson. What should be exciting and adventurous soon becomes boring and monotonous. Then, as their tour comes to an end, one evening in England, Allyson is handed a flyer from a very eye catching Dutch boy, who has invited her to visit a real Shakespearean play. On a whim, Allyson and her best friend decide to ditch the practical tour group and check out this unconventional production. This one decision is what starts the ball rolling for Allyson. She makes a choice, and soon her choices take her down a new and exciting path; one she never knew existed.
The Dutch boy turns out to be Willem and he does more than just inviting her to see a Shakespearean play. He proposes the idea of accompanying him to Paris... for just one day. The thought is so far out of Allyson's realm that at first you must think she's crazy to even accept it. Why would such a sensible, reliable, smart girl make such a crazy, outlandish, unexpected decision to gallivant with a strange boy in a strange city? The answers to this question do not show themselves until much later in the story, but when they do -- oh man, it's quite possibly the most beautiful rendition of what it means to literally lose yourself and find a new you, a better you, all over again.
I fell in love with the adventures that Willem took Allyson on. I was completely infatuated with the idea of becoming someone, anyone, you ever wanted to be... for just one day. These two strangers knew very little concrete details about the other, yet they were able to uncover and peal away the most truth they've ever witnessed in another human being. It was such a beautiful thing to discover. As quickly as I fell in love, my heart broke to pieces when this fairy tale of "just one day" came to a sudden and complete halt. Allyson wakes up the next morning, with Willem nowhere to be found. She is literally lost, heart broken, and confused. How could such a perfect day with such a perfect stranger end up to be a complete nightmare?
Allyson's self discovery does not stop there, it only begins as she returns home to a life she doesn't know anymore. That one day with Willem in Paris has left a forever imprint on her heart. She had a glimpse of this girl she never knew existed inside herself. The yearning to find her again is burning inside her, just waiting to set fire again. Through the course of a year Allyson goes through many self revelations; with her parents, her best friend, what she wants to study in school, and then of course.. having to deal with the impact Willem left on her and what she is now to do with it.
As the story progressed, so did my understanding of what THIS story truly meant for Allyson. I connected with the girl who everyone said she should always be, yet fighting to BE the girl who truly makes her happy. Her story with Willem does not stop there though. In a year's time, she realizes she must go back. She needs answers. And she knows they are in Paris. What began as just one day, has given birth to a whole new life for Allyson. So much character growth occurred through out this novel, but it did so at such a soothing pace. I am in awe of Gayle Forman's ability to create characters from just a few words and propel them into living, breathing human beings.
The ending to this novel has been left wide open. It's definitely a heart stopping moment. Thankfully Gayle will be giving us the story from Willem's point of view in the follow up, Just One Year. Books are truly special when they cause you to look at your own life from a separate stand point. If you were given just one day to be anywhere, with anyone - would you take it? It then makes you realize how something as simple as just one day has the ability to impact your entire life's course. We make decisions every day, big and small. It's terrifying, yet exciting to think which path those decisions may lead us down. For Allyson, and quite possibly Willem, it was a decision that forever changed their lives.