Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: "Just One Day"

"Just One Day" by Gayle Forman
Young adult
First published in 2013
369 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

It's so disappointing when you finally get around to reading a book everyone raves about and it just falls flat for you. That's exactly how I felt about "Just One Day." I read about it on book blogs all the time (some people think it's life-changing!) and I was really hoping to love it, but it just didn't resonate with me.

Allyson Healey has just graduated high school and she and her best friend are traversing Europe with a teen tour group before heading off to college. Allyson has lived a very structured, sheltered, good-girl kind of life and spent most of the tour doing just that, but a sponataneous decision in England leads her to meet a handsome Dutch Shakespearean actor named Willem. Quite uncharacteristically, Allyson agrees to go to Paris with Willem for just a day -- a crazy kind of day full of adventure and happy accidents and spontaneous decisions. Allyson feels gloriously free of all her burdens -- overbearing parents, expectations, college, time, and her collapsing friendship with her best friend. It's as if she's a whole new person, the kind of gutsy, confident, impulsive person she never knew she could be.

But when Allyson wakes up the next morning Willem is already gone. She's forced to return to the States brokenhearted and confused. She starts college, taking and failing all the pre-med courses her mother has planned out for her. She doesn't make friends. She's miserable and depressed. But as the year goes on Allyson slowly begins to emerge from her shell and starts to rediscover the girl she was that one day in Paris, the girl she wants to get back to.

"Just One Day" is the story of Allyson's journey of self-discovery. In the course of a tumultous year beginning with her chance meeting with Willem and cultimating in a trip back to Paris to attempt to track him down, Allyson finds out who she really is and who she wants to be. That's great. Except that I found Allyson to be kind of annoying, needy and weak-willed throughout pretty much the entire book... not to mention clingy and obsessive and extremely naive. I had to keep reminding myself that the point of the book was Allyson's revolution -- she had to recognize and shed those traits to become a new person in the end. But really, I spent most of the book just wanting to take her by the shoulders, give her a good shake and tell her to let Willem go!

I also had to constantly remind myself that "Just One Day" is a young adult book, that Allyson is only 18, that everyone is naive in the ways of the world and the ways of love at 18. So why, then, has this book made such an impact on so many readers way over the age of 18? I really have no idea.

The first half of the book was mostly Allyson's spectacular day in Paris. But the second part was broken up into months, and it reminded me an awful lot of "New Moon," the miserable second book in the Twilight series in which Bella is depressed and pining over Edward for endless chapters. Ugh! Otherwise, I found "Just One Day" to be fairly well-written for a young adult book, though there were some annyoing copy editing errors and typos that were missed. Forman recently released a sequel, "Just One Year." I'm not sure if I'll read it or not. It seems that even people who are wildly in love with "Just One Day" were a bit disappointed with its follow-up.

One thing I want to add to my reviews in 2014 is a favorite quote or two from each book. So here goes:

Favorite quotes:
*"I think everything is happening all the time, but if you don't put yourself in the path of it, you'll miss it."
*"Maybe accident isn't the right word after all. Maybe miracle is. Or maybe it's not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes."

So I just realized those two quotes say essentially -- and literally! -- the same exact thing. I guess that must have been the only theme of the book that I liked!

1 comment:

  1. Guess I don't need to read this. Sorry it was disappointing. Hate it when that happens.


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