Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Age Group: YA
You know how, after reading a disappointing YA novel, we list a bunch of things we wish the author had done…well, Gayle Forman actually does them. Just One Day is a coming-of-age story. It’s about a girl who meets a boy on a train. She abandons her plans and they spend a day together in Paris. In one day, the girl lets slip all of her inhibitions and takes chances; confesses thoughts that have never until now fully made themselves known; and begins to hope for a future she never realized she wanted. And then it is taken away from her. At the brink of a new beginning, it is ended. The girl leaves a lot of herself in Paris, in that one night, with that boy. The struggle now is to learn to live on, to move on. Only she can’t.
Forman sculpts compelling characters. I say this because Allyson is an ordinary girl. A little scared, a little sheltered, a little unlived. But, like she says, and like so many of us, she feels there is this other girl inside, another girl who is brave and outspoken, a girl who dares. Only she is trapped somehow. Like so many of us, she wants to set her free. And this is what Forman captures for us to witness: Allyson’s expansion, the moment she finally reaches out, stretches out, to touch life.
Allyson’s relationships with other characters are developed. Forman is able to grasp and portray the awkward and sometimes regretful consequences of becoming an adult. Allyson’s strained and frustrated dynamic with her mother, which at times I thought was a little excessive but then again maybe not, after you read the reasons behind her overbearningness. Her friendship with childhood best friend Melanie is beautiful and bittersweet; how friends grow, change and drift away but also how they may drift back. And, of course, her relationship with herself. They are well-written. They all hit the chord of truth.
Her relationship with Willem. It is short and romantic and I missed him when he was gone. There is a little more mystery than I appreciated, too many half smiles for answers and not enough actual explanations. But he had moments, moments when he’d do his thing and observe then say something and I’d think yes, I want those words said to me. What I love most is that their “thing” is about substantial things. They meditate about life, love, and how they see themselves. They talk to each other. They listen to each other. And they mean it.
To be fair, I’m talking about the bare bones here. It isn’t entirely free of flaws. For example, I thought little by little, this became akin to a scene of a parade in a romantic comedy — when the main character decides to brave the world and all her friends clap and march by her side in support with big goofy grins on their faces. The sudden momentum and happy “accidents” Allyson gathers near the end seemed mildly preposterous. Mildly.
Allyson’s story isn’t special (other than the fact that her self-discovery unfolds in Paris). It is simply about a girl trying to find herself. About a girl who wakes up one day and realizes she wants more, more, more. But she doesn’t know how. How do you make friends? How do you just close your eyes, pick a place and go? How do you just take what you want instead of waiting it to be offered to you? How do you even figure out what you want in the first place?
Familiar questions. We ask ourselves the same. And we all have whims and fancies, we have imaginations and daydreams. But then responsibilities and duties get in the way. What this book offers is a rejuvenation. That light bounce in our step, that gentle push on our back. That soft voice reminding us to keep looking for our answers.
This review also appears on Goodreads.
Title: Just One Day