Just One Day by Gayle Forman – Book Review

just one day

“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: On a trip around Europe, a present from her parents for graduating high school, Allyson (LuLu) Healey encounters Dutch actor Willem in a lively, engaging rendition of Twelth Night in Stratford-Upon-Avon. She instantly feels a connection, and after a strange turn of events, ends up on a just-one-day trip to Paris, with Willem. But once the day is over, Allyson has to face up to the heartbreak, love and loss she has experienced in just 24 hours.

This book was not what I expected. This is not Anna and the French Kiss, or any other cute, light romantic story you’ve read. I expected an easy-reading romance, but I got an emotional, deep, profound novel about the power of one day in the course of a life. It was a story of finding who you are, and discovering ‘how to be’. That said, I still flew through this book. It is the kind of book that hooks you in and doesn’t let go until it is over.

I thought that this book did a great job of remaining realistic, despite the craziness of that one day. Allyson, the main protagonist, constantly doubts, worries and second-guesses decisions, and so when she does do something a bit crazy, it feels realistic because she has weighed it up. Her story is also very emotional, and touched me so much. I almost cried, but I also laughed and smiled and cheesy-grinned my way through it. She has a great voice to carry the story through; simple yet insightful. She was the realistic 18 year old girl – without all of the pretentious, metaphoric thoughts that many teenage characters seem to have in YA, yet still clever and profound enough to regard her as intelligent and interesting.

There is also a great, varied cast of side characters, making this story that I assumed was all about romantic love, one of friendship and family too. Each character is important and relevant to the story. Often a character has a friend in a novel, but they don’t really influence the main character at all. But Allyson is influenced and affected by all of the side characters around her.

The time frame and pacing of this story was also very interesting. Nearly half of this book takes place over one day, while the rest of the book lasts nearly a year. And yet, the one day doesn’t feel stretched out, and the one year doesn’t feel rushed. Both halves of the book are developed and executed so well.

I love reading pretty much anything set in Paris, but what I loved about this particular book, and what made it so unique and special, was that they didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower, or the Louvre, or Notre Dame, or any of the other parts of the romantic Paris trip we’ve come to know from romance movies and books. This book puts a whole new take on what is romantic about Paris, and it was just so different! Good different!

The only thing that I wasn’t completely sure of in this book was Willem. At first I liked his spontaneity and mild humour. But, there was just something about him that I couldn’t come to like. But I think this added to my reading experience in a way, at times rooting for them, at times not. I suspect there is a lot more to him than we get in this book.

This was such a beautiful story, and one I imagine I will re-read again and again.

I really love books set in Paris, so if anyone has read any great books set in Paris, I would love to know!


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