"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
Just One Day by Gayle Forman is about 18-year-old Allyson who takes a Eurovacation before beginning the very exciting adventure of college life. On this vacation, she meets Willem, a young, Dutch actor who proposes they spend a day in Paris. In just one day, Allyson falls head over heels in love with Willem, but then wakes to find him gone. Just One Day explores the concept of losing someone, and then finding yourself.
I hate star ratings. I really do. Because if you look at this, you see 3 stars, which technically, on Goodreads, means "I liked it," but to a great many readers (and authors!) it is seen as something negative. I do not think that this was a bad book. I did like it; I just didn't love it.
Some fault lies with me in my enjoyment of this. I interrupted my reading of this because I was too stupid excited to read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and then, instead of giving me some time to get that book out of my system, I jumped right back into this one. It was hard to remember that I was reading about Allyson, not Cather, and the love interest was Willem, not Levi.
However, I also just couldn't relate to the narrator. The entire Eurotrip she's on, she constantly bemoans that Europe isn't as pretty as the pictures. Most people would give anything to do what she had just done, but instead she wastes Europe in a haze of negativity. She is not a traveler, and I get that, but it was hard to read past the spoiled brat aspect of her.
The relationships between Allyson and her best friend, and Allyson and her mom were handled beautifully. How many people can relate to having a childhood best friend that then becomes distant when they enter their college years? I certainly can. And watching her mother go from overbearing - a helicopter mother, if you will - to trusting in her daughter, was really well done.
The second half of the book was heaps better than the first, but also was where I had the most problems. Allyson falls into a depression after Willem leaves her for a multitude of reasons, one of which is that she never properly talks it out and another of which is that her mother refuses to believe she's depressed (even though it's obvious) and therefore she never gets any help. That being said, it was still hard for me to understand her. The way I saw it, she was letting one day ruin her entire college experience. It wasn't until she decided to find Willem that I enjoyed the second half of the book.
It's not that I don't believe that people can fall in love in a day; it's that I don't believe she fell in love in a day. It's hard for me to believe that she would wait an entire year before finding him if she were truly in love. Even if she believed he left her, even if she was hurt... wouldn't she have wanted answers before the year mark? Wouldn't that have crossed her mind months earlier?
The ending was not satisfactory for me. If the whole point was about Allyson finding and accepting herself, then
Also, where the author actually ended the story leaves a lot to be desired.(show spoiler)
I suppose you could argue that she found both, but somehow it felt cheap to me.
Overall, the first half of this book was enjoyable and the last third, when she was finally in Europe, was awesome. I liked seeing Allyson open up and make friends. I liked seeing her learn to like herself. I would recommend this for people who like books about traveling (because the traveling aspects were some of the best parts for me) and YA contemporary.