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Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Friday, February 22, 2013

Publisher: RHCP Digital
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 3/5

Hmmmm, I have been putting off writing this review for over a week now. Like many others, I had been really looking forward to reading Just One Day. Reeeaaally looking forward to it. If I Stay and Where She Went are up there on the all time favourites list. So, it is with great regret that I have to admit I was left underwhelmed after finishing this book. 

Allyson is on a teens tour around Europe when she meets the enigmatic Willem.  Throwing caution to the wind, the two head off to Paris for a day and explore the city. However, the next morning, Willem is gone and Allyson is all alone in a big, unfamiliar city. Fast forward a few months and Allyson is at college with the cloud of what happened hanging over her head. Finally, she emerges from her funk and starts to let her guard down again, making a few friends in the process. With the help of said friends, Allyson decides she needs closure and jets off to Paris again. 

Now, where to start...I think the main problem I had with this book was Allyson. It is perfectly possible to have an unlikeable protagonist- in fact, sometimes this makes for a better story- however Allyson was unlikeable because she was just so flat. Nothing she said or did made me care about her and in turn I ended up not caring about Willem or the whole plot for that matter. I think if her BFF were the main character there might have been more spark to the story. I could believe Willem wanting to run off to Paris with her rather than Allyson. Having said that, Willem was not a great character either. He didn't do anything that made me see why Allyson was so worked up over him leaving. Ok, beauty is the eye of the beholder but in a book we need to at least glimpse at why two people are in love, do we not? When Allyson woke up and found him gone, I kind of thought 'good' and not just because I was tired and bored. I thought it would stir something up in her but no she just called her tour leader and spent the best part of a year moping about it. Perhaps it is a cultural thing but in my eyes, if you're bold enough to head to Paris with a stranger (even after watching Taken and all that), then you should be able to find your way back to the station and get yourself home again. 

I liked the fact that Gayle Forman didn't paint a romantic version of Paris but on the other hand this meant once again it was near impossible to begin to comprehend Allyson's feelings towards Europe and Willem. To balance the depiction of 'realistic' Paris, I go back to my initial point, the main characters needed to be stronger. 

As for the second part of the book, it just seemed to fall apart. I didn't like Allyson's new, gay BFF because it felt like he was part of a completely different story. Again, like her original BFF, he was too interesting for Allyson's story. He just showed up her blandness even more. The final part, in Amsterdam, felt a little rushed, however I suspect more will be said in the sequel. 

Overall, I suppose I would have thought this book was just ok if I'd picked it up randomly. However, I expected so much more from the author who gave us If I Stay. I think the blurb at the back explaining Gayle Forman's own travelling experience is the key along with cultural differences. I think she wanted to explain travelling to young adults and how the good outweighs the bad. However, where I live, a lot of young people are like Willem- just getting on a train (or a cheap flight) to the continent and bumming around for a bit. Like Allyson says, two hours on a train from St Pancras and you're in another country. So, perhaps I will prefer the second instalment a little more- who knows *gives a very French shrug*. 

My musical choice for Just One Day:


  1. You've nailed my feelings on this. IF I STAY is so beautiful and intense and I really expected more from this. I totally didn't get why Allyson was so into Willem (and why everyone keeps saying he's so dreamy)--he seems like kind of a cocky dickhead to me. And her moping around was boring. I really wish she hadn't found him in the end and the story was more about her growing into her own person, realising she didn't need him at all...but I guess I'll see how I feel after I read Willem's story. Great review :)

  2. Glad to hear I'm not the only one! Especially as the response on Goodreads seems to be overwhelmingly positive. Yeah, I think it would have been better if she hadn't found him too. Fingers crossed Willem's story will be a little better.


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