Just One Day
by Gayle Forman
Allyson just graduated from high school and is touring Europe with her best friend on an educational trip. She’s always been a “good girl” and hasn’t taken many risks in life. At the end of the trip she meets a guy named Willem and decides to throw caution to the wind and head to Paris with him. The consequences of her decision leave her reeling.
I really loved Forman’s last two novels, If I Stay & Where She Went, so my expectations might have been too high for this one. The story felt flat at first for me. Allyson is so self-conscious, I know that’s how many teenage girls are, but her spontaneous decision to take off with Willem seemed too far-fetched considering what we knew about her personality. I understand the desire to try something new, but the Paris trip with a stranger would be extreme even for an incredibly adventurous person.
**A Bit of a Spoilery Rant**
I understand that in the end the story isn’t just about following a guy, but a big chunk of the story is. Not only is she going to a different country with a guy she barely knows, she also lets it destroy her mental health for months afterwards. I understand that she’s learning a bigger lesson about finding your own self-worth, etc., but I feel like that lesson isn’t the main focus of the book. Instead we focus on how she is so heartbroken she can’t function. She treats her parents badly; she’s a horrible friend, she neglects school and all of her relationships, etc.
For example, even when she’s on her journey of discovery in Paris and is supposedly doing better, she still ignores any potential friendships that come her way. Instead of doing something interesting with her new friends from Australia, she turns down every one of their offers to hang out. For days she gives them no explanation of why and once again hurts the feelings of those around her. Being a better person is not just about learning that you can follow your own dreams instead of your parents, it’s also about treating the people around you with respect and kindness.
Also, I know Willem is suppose to be swoon-worthy, but I disliked him the more she discovered about him. I’m not saying he didn’t have some great lines, it’s just he's not that great of a guy and he's not really worth a year of heartbreak.
**Spoilery Rant Over**
BOTTOM LINE: I know I just finished ranting, but I did like the majority of this book. I especially loved reading the travel bits and everything related to Shakespeare. I also thought some of the supporting characters, like Allyson’s Mom and Wren, were really interesting and would love to hear their stories. I think I just needed to lower my expectations for depth and read it just for fun.
“They’re always on strike for something in France.”
Photo by moi of Sacre Coeur.