Review: Just One Day – Gayle Forman

12842115Series: Just One Day #1
Published: January 2013
Genre: romance, contemporary

Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

Before starting the review, I want to say that I realized it was too long, so at the end, you’ll see a summary of my review, so you can read the parts that you really want to read. 

This is a story about discovery and about finding yourself. We follow Allyson, who has been gifted with an European tour for her graduation. Sadly, it has not been as excited or life-changing as she imagined; on the contrary, all the stops felt comparable, nothing struck her as unique. So when Willem, an adventurous actor who she met the day before, offers her to go to Paris, she accepts.

The tour

What I would give to go on that trip; soooo many beautiful cities! Allyson, however, is not impressed, and I do not blame her. Even if it was a great opportunity, the company is also an important factor. Think about all the trips you went on with your school and your classmates. Wouldn’t you have had a better time if you went alone, or with your family or some friends. You probably would have enjoyed it more, right? And I’m sure Allyson would have too (even though she didn’t exactly go with her school but you get my point).

We visit and learn about different places and people. And, since we meet people from different nationalities, there are some sentences and words from other languages, which was a nice touch.


swan-theatreThis is where the book starts, in Shakespeare’s place of birth and, as such, Allyson and the rest of the Teens tour! is waiting to get into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for a play. But, as faith has it, she hears about another show, and another play, also by Shakespeare, performed by Guerrilla Will. She, along with her friend Mel, is intrigued, so much so that Allyson, our good girl, never-gets-in-trouble never-lies Allyson, pretends to be sick so they can go back to the hotel go watch them perform. And it’s so worth it. The play is outside and the audience follows around the actors, captivated by their performance.

This is not the only mention or reference to Shakespeare, and I liked how it was a theme in itself, and how the different mentions and talks about Shakespeare and his plays paralleled the story itself.

To go or not to go?

Go, go, go! Allyson and Mel find one of the actors from last night, Willem, and when he hears Allyson is bummed about havint not seen Paris (they were supposed to go but had to change destinations), he offers to go with her. For one day. With a stranger. And Allyson, who always follows the rules, decides to be brave an say yes.

With that, she’s not saying yes to Willem, she’s saying yes to herself. And, for someone so organized and prepared, saying yes is a huge step; she doesn’t think it through, she trusts that Willem has all of the answers because even though she thinks of a possible way for her to go, she does not investigate how to go, or where to stay, or how to come back; she just thinks that she can go.

Allyson v Lulu

25542442One of the most frustrating parts about the book is Lulu. Lulu is how Willem refers to Allyson. He doesn’t bother asking about her and getting to know her. I mean, sure, he knows things about her and talks to her and asks her questions but if you are spending a day with someone, at least ask her her name. A person is not defined by their name, but in order to know that person, you have to start with the basics. For example, I know the names of people I went to primary school with. I even know where some of them live. But do I know their hobbies? Do I know what they want to be when they grow up? Their favourite movie? No. Willem tried to know these things first; he tried to know Lulu, and not Allyson. For him, it’s like Allyson does not even exist.

I hated Lulu. Or the idea of her, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I understand Allyson wanting to change and be someone else, but can’t she do that herself? Does she really need Lulu for that? To me it felt that it was either Lulu or Allyson where she could be both. And I also hated that she felt like she needed to be Lulu.

But this trip changes Allyson. By the end of it, she’s no longer Allyson. Nor Lulu. She’s someone new, and throughout the book, we see her evolve, we see her struggle, we see her find herself, and that was beautiful. That was what made the book for me, how she went from Allyson the goodie-goodie, to Allyson, the adventurer, how she grew, how she discovered not only who she was, but also, how amazing she already was.


Ugh. That sums up my feelings about him. I didn’t connect with him. He isn’t particularly funny or charming or anything.

Okay, apart from the Lulu thing, there were other things that annoyed me about him, but first let me mention some positives: he’s adventurous and so easy to be with and talk to; after all, he’s a traveller. However, he can talk to anybody, and that does have a negative part: making people stand out. Maybe at the moment, the person he’s speaking to feels important and heard, but for him, it’s not that special, just the way he communicate with others, enthusiastically.

The girls. Sooooo many girls. It shouldn’t annoy me, but it annoys Allyson, and it’s something that has been repeated during the book. He meets and flirts with a lot of girls while being with Allyson. And sure, they’re not together, but still, it’s not nice. And he sees how that makes Allyson feel.

17623975The other characters

Allyson (sorry, not calling her Lulu) and Willem meet a lot of different people who, in some way or another, affect their lifes and their adventure. And that’s what people do, even if we realize it or not. Even if they intend to or not. Everybody we meet changes us. And I loved that part of the book, seeing how different people caused different emotions and impressions on them, especially Allyson. Similarly, I like how thi book deals with friendship, and with family. It’s so realistic. Special mention to Wren, who I love love love.


The structure is fantastic; the book is divided in three different parts. We have adventure, longing and discovery. Something I liked is that at the beginning of each chapter, there’s the location, so we start the book in Stratford-upon-Avon but it then changes to Paris. It was very nice.

This book revolved around that trip to Paris, but there’s so much more to it. It is the bigger part, that’s true, but it goes beyond that. And also, since we take so much time in Paris, compared to other places, we get to experience everything that Allyson experiences; and we understand why that day can and does change her.

Overall (summary time!)

  • A book about discovery and finding yourself
  • It’s so much more than a trip to Paris
  • Allyson >>>>>>>>>> Lulu
  • Willem is meh
  • Everybody changes us, in one way or another; Allyson meets a lot of people and we see how these people make an impression on her
  • Friendships and family

Even if Just One Day is not what I expected, I liked it, not so much for the romance bit, but for the adventure and discovery. Allyson’s character surprised me, and her evolution is fantastic.

Have you read Just One Day? Do you agree with me? What’s your favourite part of the book? Have you read Just One Year?


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