Just One Day by Gayle Forman


Whitney Atkinson

Managing Editor

I read Gayle Forman’s popular title If I Stay a long time ago and gave it one star on Goodreads. I was about 14 at the time and remember not liking it AT ALL, so when I heard of another Gayle Forman book coming out, I was skeptical. However, I leapt on the opportunity to read this one to see if I could reverse my ways and find appreciation in Gayle’s work, and I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. I gave this book four and a half stars out of five.


The book follows a girl named Allyson, who is on a summer trip to Europe touring the continent for a school-associated educational program. For her entire life, she has followed her parents’ agenda and never stepped out of line or taken risks. So, on the last day of the trip when she meets charming Willem at the train station who offers to take her on a trip to Paris for the day, she accepts. And so, a day of chaos and spontaneity ensues before being abruptly shattered the morning after.


At the very beginning of the novel, Allyson is established as a very quiet girl who stays in her own bubble and is not adventurous at all. So when Willem and Allyson first met, I was a bit confused that she threw herself into flirting with him when i’d just read two chapters of her describing how much of a goody-two-shoes she was. Perhaps this is the first step in her character development to become less of a loser, but I was still a bit unsettled by her casualness around Willem. Then later on she so quickly agrees to go trek across a foreign country with a guy she’d known for literally half an hour, which surprised me even more.


Throughout the parts of the book where Allyson was in Europe, I was completely thrilled by the setting. I have such a fascination with Europe and the way the tube runs and all the stuff that is foreign to me, since I live in Texas and rarely get to read about foreign city life. Gayle is so great at describing scenery that I felt like I was with them as they bicycled by canals or ran through cobblestone streets or ate crepes outside a cafe. It was truly great to experience the French culture alongside Allyson, because I felt like I was truly there while I was reading this at 2:30 in the morning. It just made me so much more enthusiastic about the story and it inspired me to travel to Europe, which is actually kind of bad because I’m only 17 and cannot afford to go anywhere further than an hour away. But long story short, I absolutely love that this took place somewhere foreign, and I wish I could read more books that do so. If you are looking for a book that is set somewhere other than America, this is a great one.


Allyson, in the beginning of the book, came off as a shy girl with no backbone, but as the story progressed, that fact became more and more annoying. I have read my fair share of books with narrators that are like, “O, woe is me, I like that hot boy but I’m too ugly and that hot boy will never love me back,” and this certainly was leaning toward that category. It got old really fast, but I was able to push through it until there came a shift in her emotions. I will not spoil anything that happens because this book definitely takes a turn you will not expect, but toward the middle of this book, after she goes home from France, Allyson enters this newer and darker streak where she is very rude to her parents and cut off from society and refuses to speak to anyone. Despite all of these things being really irritating, I have got to admit— they are realistic. Books like this serve as a reminder to me that a lot of things characters do are also things that I would do, even if they are annoying. So despite me wanting to kick Allyson for half the book for being so whiny, I can still understand why she was feeling the way she did, and so this did not take away from my rating of the book.


For the whole first half of their friendship, I was really surprised how Allyson always regarded Willem as a regular boy instead of this godly creature that she wanted to suction her lips onto. That was super refreshing to have her acknowledge him as a human being instead of this really hot guy that she did not deserve. There was a very slow progression where her emotions shift from “he was nice” to “he had really soft looking lips,” but then there was this one scene in the middle of everything where she has this really overwhelming epiphany moment that she may be falling in love with Willem. It was kind of obnoxious that the feelings came on so suddenly, but nevertheless I enjoyed their relationship throughout the story because it maintained its realisticness.


I cannot talk much on this subject if I’m going to keep it spoiler free, but to me Willem’s character was a bit sketchy. In several scenes it was mentioned that girls would give him waggly eyes or he’d accept a phone number from them, and I thought nothing of it because, obviously, that happens to hot guys in books. But then toward the tail-end, there is a series of events that puts this in a more serious light, and it makes him seem like a really big player. Willem is absent for the last half of the book after a chain of events, and the more stuff that occurs, the more it seems like he never truly liked Allyson romantically at all. She tries to prove this wrong, and in the end, we never really gets answers to any of her questions. THIS is the reason why I knocked off .5 stars, because there were a lot of plot holes, especially when for the majority of the book, we were set up to believe that Willem was the great love of her life that would never do anything wrong.


And lastly, I must explain the absolute best part of this novel: Allyson’s character development. I said several times before that Allyson was shy and meek and had no self-confidence, the stereotypical girl who let her parents run her life as she stayed under the radar. So I was completely blown away and proud when she went through a series of actions in order to better her life. She stood up to her parents, declaring that she did not want to go into Pre-med. She was able to get over a series of personality obstacles that made her compact herself into a small box of unimportance. And, in the end, she morphed herself into someone that would not take “no” for an answer. And coming from someone who sobbed for help at the beginning of the story when something went wrong, I was so proud of her character development whenever she was able to go into things calmly and assertively at the end of the book. Truly, a standing ovation for Allyson.
This book is completely set up so that you are required to read the second book in order to receive answers to your questions, and so I did. Truly, this duology is a work of art and I would highly recommend it to anyone that seeks adventure, another culture, and a cute boy.