Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went were two contemporary novels that I loved last year. Mia and Adam are even included in my list of Favorite Literary Couples in the past year. I couldn’t wait to read Just One Day as soon as I found out about it. I did consider waiting for the companion novel to be released before I read it but when rave reviews starting popping up in the blogosphere, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait. I was delighted when Just One Day finally became available in bookstores here, I grabbed a copy and read it as soon as I could.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished reading Just One Day and I have no idea why I keep putting off writing my thoughts about it. I guess because I really enjoyed reading Just One Day but it felt incomplete without Just One Year. I wanted to get to know Willem more because obviously, meeting him was a turning point in Allyson’s life. In any case, it’s a lovely contemporary YA novel but I didn’t love it as much as If I Stay and Where She Went. While I was reading this, I kept thinking of how realistic Allyson’s situation is. I tend to be cautious while traveling so I was wondering if I ever found myself in her shoes, would I be willing to go off to Paris to spend the day with a guy I just met? Without a phone that has international roaming activated and without being familiar with the language of the country? If I push all of that aside and focus on the story, it’s all very romantic though. I get the feeling that Just One Day would make a great movie. I like how we see a different side of Paris in this novel. Like Allyson said, it’s not the “Paris of the movies.” I’ve always wanted to go to Paris but this novel made me want to explore the non-touristy sections of the city, to get lost and just see what I end up discovering. Here’s one of quote from the book that stood out for me:
“…being Lulu, it made me realize that all my life I’ve been living in a small, square room, with no windows and no doors. And I was fine. I was happy, even. I thought. Then someone came along and showed me there was a door in the room. One that I’d never even seen before. Then he opened it for me. Held my hand as I walked through it. And for one perfect day, I was on the other side. I was somewhere else. Someone else. And then he was gone, and I was thrown back into my little room. And now, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to find that door.”
I chose this passage because I like how it highlights how certain experiences can open our eyes to a wider world. I guess it reminds me of traveling and reading – how those activities make you realize that there’s so much more out there than what you know. I also really liked the college setting of the novel and could relate to Allyson’s situation – how she felt that she has to go the pre-med track because it’s what her parents want, even when she’s interested in classes like pottery or Shakespeare Out Loud. I’m jealous at the wide selection of classes available at her school. Allyson’s parents, her mom in particular, are very controlling people. While my parents weren’t like that, I had to take up a science or engineering degree in college because I was a scholar in a science high school that required all students to go into that field. I found science interesting but I wasn’t really passionate about it and I felt like it didn’t love me back because I had a hard time with some of my subjects. In spite of that, I felt like I had a great college experience and I wanted the same thing for Allyson. Other details in the book that I enjoyed reading about were: Shakespeare (made me realize that I’ve never seen a performance in person, now I want to watch one of his comedies on stage), Allyson’s buddy D’Angelo (he seems like an awesome friend), Paris and macarons (LOVE macarons! They’re not that common back home in Manila but several bakeries sell them here in Singapore). A pleasant read overall and one that I would recommend to fans of older contemporary YA, traveling, getting lost and finding yourself in the process. Really can’t wait to read Just One Year: