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.
Review: Book 1
“So, Lulu? What do you say? You want to go to Paris? For just one day?”
This book has been on my TBR for a very long time, and so finally getting my hands on it, finally flicking through the pages, was deeply gratifying. You can count on me having high expectations for a book like this.
A coming of age book? Yes, please.
A Dutch love interest? Try and keep me away.
A travel book? I’m begging you.
And, luckily for me, this book was everything I wanted and more. Not only was it a travel book, but it spanned multiple continents, and consisted of amazing experiences at every stop. Not only were they amazing, but startlingly realistic – they weren’t perfect, far from it, but instead real.
I love it when authors throw away the idea of perfection and trade it for something emotionally charged and endlessly interesting.
Going into it, I was expecting this book to be really upbeat and lighthearted throughout. Thus, I was was surprised to discover that that upbeat tempo only really applied to the first third. After that, we started to see much more serious themes, a much darker tone, creep into the book. You might be thinking I would be disappointed at such a revelation. I was reading this book on holiday, after all, and I was looking for something to match my summer vibe. However, I was actually even more invested when the book took this turn. Like I said earlier, it helped that transition from a fluffy YA novel to a resounding YA novel with important messages.
Likewise, the development of our protagonist – Alyson (or Lulu) – was a factor that really took me aback. At the beginning, she is naive and idealistic, and so seeing her grow from that was really amazing. Awe-inspiring, even. It was like watching a flower bloom, or a tree blossom with flowers in the spring. She began as a character I didn’t really relate to, nor was I invested in, and ended as a character I long to be – her attitude, her personality, her dedication: admirable.
On another note, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will be well aware that I am partial to a good cliffhanger. In short, I love them, and Just One Day had a great one, so much so that I had to pick up the next book straight away!
But what if Shakespeare – and Hamlet – were asking the wrong question? What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?
“If you rape or murder my friend, I will kill you!”
Willem tsk-tsks. “You Americans are so violent. I’m Dutch. The worst I could do is run her over with a bicycle.”
“While stoned!” Melanie adds.
“Okay, maybe there’s that,” Willem admits.
At the start of the trip, I took shots of the sights. The Colosseum. Belvedere Palace. Mozart Square. But I stopped. They never came out very well, and you could get postcards of these things.
But there are no postcards of this. Of life.
We had wings on our feet; they had leaden boots.
He said that earlier, about accidents, about never knowing which one is just a king in the road and which one is a fork, about never knowing your life is changing until it’s already happened.
Stains are even worse when you’re the only one who can see them.
Shakespeare did not write his plays so that you could sit in a library carrel and read them in silence.
I have no idea where the stairs lead. I can practically hear Willem’s voice: All the more reason to take them.
Review: Book 2
Like much of the first book, Just One Year attacks some pretty dark themes. This time, though, it is told from Willem’s perspective. Willem is the love interest in book one, and the only view we get of him is a 24 moment with Alysson/Lulu in Paris. Thus, I was extremely excited to take a step back from Lulu’s interpretation of him and instead develop my own.
Willem is definitely a confusing character. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders, but still acts like only gravity is tethering him to the ground. For years before meeting Lulu, he has been travelling, and it’s extremely eye opening to learn way, just as it is interesting to see him develop up to that point of admitting it to himself. To admit that, maybe, he isn’t OK.
It was so interesting to see a character – previously presented only as an enigma – begin to open up and develop.
Like book one, character development was a big theme in this novel, and I really appreciated it. Who said coming-of-age was reserved only for pre-teens? It’s great to see older characters begin to learn who they are after living in a bubble all their lives. I think self-discovery is a really important theme in life, and so I’m so thankful that Forman decided to delve into that theme in this series.
On the other hand, I definitely think this is a much darker book than book one. Though it still involves travelling, it has a much more angsty tone. This isn’t detrimental to the book at all – actually I think it was great to see this idolised, perfect character open up and display his flaws. I actually found quite a few parallels between Willum and Holden Caulfield in this book, so if you enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, it might be worth you picking this book up.
The truth and its opposite are flip sides of the same coin.
And then time just stops. It is a year and a day. One hour and twenty-four. It is time, happening, all at once.
It was just one day and it’s been just one year. But maybe just one day is enough. Maybe one hour is enough. Maybe time has nothing to do with it.
Review: Book 2.5
This book isn’t at all like the other two – it is totally and completely happy.
It was so great to see all of the angst and pain and growth and development lead to the perfect, happy ending. All of my questions were answered, and I loved how everything seemed to tie together seamlessly.
That being said, I did have some problems with this book.
Firstly, the person change – from first to third – was quite jarring. For both of these books, I’ve been inside a character’s head, and suddenly I was forced away from them, and was instead looking from the outside in. Thus, in my opinion, it read more like a documentary than the drama, romance tale I’d come to love. I still don’t really understand why Forman chose to do this, and I’m sure she has a valid reason – maybe she wanted Book 1 to be Alyson’s, Book 2 to be Willem’s, and Book 3 to be shared? – but I personally didn’t like it. Sorry.
Though I mentioned before that all of my questions had been answered, I still managed to leave with one: Could this novella have been attached to the end of Book 2?
Luckily, I have the answer to this myself: Yes. Definitely. Completely.
I don’t like that this is a separate book, and feel for the people that maybe didn’t realise that this book exists. Book 2 doesn’t have an ending. Book 2.5 is its ending. And it doesn’t really make sense to me that they’re not joined.
This novel is number 2.5 in a series, and so I am entering this novel for the number 24 spot on the Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge – A “between the numbers” book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.). Yay!
If you enjoyed _____, you’ll love Just One Day!