Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer

YA Book Club – Just One Day by Gayle Forman


Just One Day photo(from Goodreads)

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.

I have to admit, I was reluctant to read this because the inside cover says Allyson “follows” Willem to Paris. That made her sound desperate, which I wasn’t thrilled about. But they actually go together, which is totally different.

This is one of those “transitional” books that I love, that happen after high school graduation, when there is so much change and uncertainty.

The relationship between Allyson and her parents, especially her mom, was so realistic. It was easy to relate to her desire to be independent, but not wanting to disappoint them in the process. And the change in her lifelong friendship with Melanie as they part ways for college? Again, so realistic and painful to read about.

The book had a great flow and it was romantic without being overomanticized, if that makes sense. It’s obvious Willem has some secrets (and is possibly a lothario) and Allyson, even in her infatuation, recognizes this. He’s not this all-encompassing *perfect being* in other words. They do share a definite connection, be it love or lust or something in between. And some of their moments together definitely have that sweet, first-love flutter, like on page 81:

He looks around. “It’s nice, this. The canal.” He looks at me. “You.”

“I’ll bet you say that to all the canals.” But I flush in the musty rich darkness.

We stay like that for the rest of the ride, swinging our legs against the side of the boat, listening as the odd bit of laughter or music from Paris seeps underground. It feels like the city is telling secrets down here, privy only to those who think to listen.

The descriptions of Europe were beautiful, even the places Allyson found less than awe-inspiring. I liked her perspective – it fit with her being a realist who happened to take a leap of faith. It also explained her response in the months that followed. It would have been easy for that part of the story to fall into melodramatics, but it was handled well – enough of a hint of her sadness without it turning into whininess.

One small nitpick: She writes Willem a letter in March, saying she’s been trying to forget him for nine months, but it’s only been seven months. Faulty math there.

I liked the bits of humor (her co-worker teaching her French cuss words), her awkward attempts to make friends at college, and her bravery when she starts talking to the group of Australian strangers. I’m a homebody now, but back when I used to take trips on a whim, I’d run into people at a club that I hadn’t seen since the month before (at another club) and it’d be all, “Hey!” because you form a certain kinship. My grandmother (in all her lovely wanderlust) still talks to fellow travelers she met 30 years ago.

Finally: the end. I actually liked the ambiguity. Even if there wasn’t a plan for another book, it didn’t bother me to not have answers to every question. It sorta helps to keep that one day in this perfect, unspoiled time capsule.

But of course I’m gonna read the sequel.

If you’ve read the book, come join the discussion at YA Book Club!


Author: Jennifer Pickrell

I write YA contemporary filled w/ romance, angst & family drama. Things I like: cats, snacks, baseball, green tea, taking pictures of trees & movies so bad, they’re good.

20 thoughts on “YA Book Club – Just One Day by Gayle Forman

  1. I agree about the ambiguous ending–part of me wants to leave it there, and just imagine where the story goes next. But I am very excited to have Gayle Forman tell me what she thinks in the next book.
    Totally agree that the relationships with her mom and her best friend were uber-realistic and sometimes painful. That realism really sold me on the book–this idea/plot could’ve been a lighthearted romp-y romance, which would’ve been great, too, but it’s really a deeper story about growing up and growing into new relationships.

  2. The ambiguity of the ending bothered me when I first read it, because I was all, “I stayed up until 1 am for THIS?!” But now that it’s had time to sit, I actually do love it. I mean, she found him and didn’t have any expectations outside of that, so what more is needed?

    But of course I’m going to read the sequel.

    • Haha, I know what you mean – there was this moment near the end (after she saw him in play and didn’t go up to him) where I seriously thought she was going to leave without at least talking to him and I was like, “WHAT??? What is she doing??”

  3. Ambiguous endings don’t bother me, and I like books set in Europe. The book sounds interesting. I’ll check it out.

  4. I liked the ambiguous ending–in fact, I liked it even when Allyson saw Willem in the play and I thought it was going to be left there. It seemed like the perfect way to end it–she’d changed, had this amazing journey, and now it was going to be left. But that cliffhanger! Definitely made me curious about how the story finishes up.

  5. Aah, the setting… Loved it! I SO want to travel Europe, especially since reading this book. Gayle Forman really made it feel like a magical place I was also a fan of Allyson’s relationship with her parents. It felt very authentic, and it totally explained why Allyson was the way she was. I can’t wait to read Willem’s book this October. I’m very much looking forward to learning about him and his past. Great write up, Jennifer!

  6. I completely agree with your love for the changing relationship between Allyson and Melanie. I thought that was so realistic and just really well done. And the settings? I liked that she avoided most of the more touristy spots. We got to be real explorers with Allyson and got to know these cities in a new, fresh way.

    • “I liked that she avoided most of the more touristy spots.”

      Exactly! It felt so much more authentic, like it was based on real experience and not just Internet researching “Paris landmarks.”

  7. Well, I love Gayle Foreman, so I’m pretty sure I’ll read it :0) – and anything set in Paris is okay by me.

    • The story won’t rip your heart out like IF I STAY, but (as an adult), there were a few moments where I was saying, “No Allyson, come on, can’t you see this will only end in heartbreak?”

  8. I wish I had liked this one more than I did. 😦 There were things about it that I liked, but enough that I didn’t love that I didn’t want to post a review of it. Ah well. Having said that, I think I might end up reading JUST ONE YEAR so I can find out what happened/happens with Willem.

    • Sorry you didn’t enjoy it 😦 but I totally understand the issues you probably had. Willem didn’t do a thing for me – even as a teen I probably would have thought he sucked. But I’m a dweller, so I understood Allyson moping about it (although I’ve never moped for an entire year).

  9. I love a good ambiguous ending, so I totally agree with you. I’m obviously dying to know Willem’s side of the story, but if she had just left it there I would have been fine. The whole story wasn’t about Willem, it was about Allyson. She grew so much, it didn’t even matter what he had to say. (But, of course, I do want to hear it.)

  10. Great review of this book. The prose really was marvelous and made everything feel so real. I’m with you on the ending. I like the ambiguity. I likely won’t read the second book, at least not when it first comes out. I want to believe Allyson gets closure and that’s it–she doesn’t go crawling back to Willem. That wouldn’t line up with the growth she’s undergone, and I want to believe it’s there to stay, you know?

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