Thursday, July 04, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Published in 2013 by Dutton Books. 369 pages.

Based on my reading of Gayle Forman's previous young adult novels If I Stay and Where She Went, I had very high expectations of Just One Day. Unfortunately, that may have colored my reading experience.

The novel also suffered in my comparisons of it to some of the excellent young adult books I've read. For example, early on, I was reminded of Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I felt that Ginny's European trip was of greater significance than Allyson's. Then, with Allyson's venture into Paris, I was reminded of Anna and the French Kiss, but I didn't feel the same chemistry between Allyson and Willem that I did between Anna and Étienne. Finally, although the book picked up for me once Allyson started taking control of her life, Allyson's search for Willem unfavorably compared in my mind to the journey undertaken by Laura Resau's "Sophie la Fuerte" in Red Glass.

That said, I did really love all the Shakespeare references in this novel - beginning with the epigraph ("All the world's a stage ...") from As You Like It. I also liked Allyson's interactions with college classmate Dee, who I thought was a terrific character. There were also several beautifully written, even poignant passages that I marked as I read:
Willem laughs again. The sound is clear and strong as a bell, and it fills me with joy, and it's like, for the first time in my life, I understand that this is the point of laughter, to spread happiness. [page 83]

I have a full life. How can I be this empty? [page 224]

I realize then it's not enough to know what someone is called. You have to know who they are. [page 310]

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. [page 367]

So despite my unfulfilled expectations, I will definitely be looking for Just One Year in October to find out what happened to Willem and to discover if he and Allyson have some chemistry between them after all.

For an eloquent discussion of the novel's weaknesses, read Priscilla Gilman's review in The New York Times. For a couple of reviews from those who loved the book, check out Madigan Reads and It's All About Books.


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