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.
In Review: My Thoughts
“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.”
“I think everything is happening all the time, but if you don’t put yourself in the path of it, you miss it.”
If you’re an emotional reader like I am, every now and then you read a book that absolutely takes everything out of you. That is what Just One Day did to me. It exhausted me, in the best way possible. It was a total emotional rollercoaster and I enjoyed every minute of it. I laughed, I cried, I swooned. I fell in love with Allyson and Willem. While I read this book for the first time earlier in the year, I decided a re-read was necessary to prepare for the highly-anticipated release of Just One Year. This is the fourth book in my “favorites re-read via audiobook” project.
“I think maybe traveling is a talent, like whistling or dancing,” I continue. “And some people have it – you seem to. I mean, how long have you been traveling?”
“Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing.”
Gayle Forman writes characters that I embrace fully and can’t help but love. There’s just something about them. I think it’s because I can always see just a little bit of myself in each of them. Allyson and Willem are no exception. Neither are without their faults, but both are completely charming. I don’t think they could possibly be more different if they tried. Allyson has led a fairly sheltered life. Her parents dictate her life. I connected with Allyson immediately, but at the same time I kind of pitied her. Willem is an actor, a loose cannon. He lives his life traveling. He hasn’t been home in a really long time. He makes friends, falls in love and truly experiences life. When their paths cross, he offers her an adventure she can’t resist: one day in Paris, with him.
“The proper sort of mayonnaise,” I say in between gasps of laughter. “It makes me think that there’s, like, a bad-girl mayonnaise who’s slutty and steals, and a good-girl mayonnaise, who is proper and crosses her legs, and my problem is that I’ve never been introduced to the right one.”
“We kiss again. This next kiss is the kind that breaks open the sky. It steals my breath and gives it back. It shows me that every other kiss I’ve had in my life has been wrong.”
So many of my favorite parts of this book happen during the short time Allyson (Lulu) and Willem have together. The two of them had an incredible spark. In spite of their differences, or maybe because of them, they worked so well together. They complemented each other perfectly. They completely charmed me. More than loving their adventures that one day, I loved their dialogue and how they were with each other. They got each other. It was more than just attraction, they shared a real connection.
“There’s a world of difference, Lulu, between falling in love and being in love.”
“I’ll keep you up here.” He taps his temple. “Where you can’t get lost.”
My heart absolutely broke for Allyson after she woke up alone. As much as I loved Allyson and Willem together and as angry as I was at him for abandoning her, I was completely enthralled with this story. I had to keep reading to find out if they would ever see each other again. Surely a connection like that couldn’t be wrong. They had to find each other again. It all had to be a huge misunderstanding, right?
“But what if Shakespeare – and Hamlet – were asking the wrong questions? What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?”
As Allyson went to college completely broken and attempted to put herself and her life back together, I was solidly in her corner. I was torn between whether I wanted her to move completely on from Willem or if I wanted her to try desperately to find him. I cheered for her as she began to take her life back and finally make choices of her own. That one single day with Willem broke her, but it also gave her the courage to put herself back together. But, she became a stronger person because of all that happened.
“And the people we pretend at, they’re already in us. That’s why we pretend them in the first place.”
Allyson’s experience in France really helped her grow and come into her own, eventually. More than a story of love, this is a coming-of-age tale. And it’s a beautiful, albeit emotionally exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking, one. Books like this are why I love reading contemporary young adult lit.