This is my first adventure with Gayle Forman but I absolutely loved it and will be checking out her other books really, really soon. It's just a beautiful literal and figurative story of finding yourself and finding love. It pulled at my heartstrings constantly, made me laugh, giggle, flail, and produce some tears. And this from one who usually doesn't really do contemporary.
Part 1: One Day
The book starts off with Allyson and Willem's one glorious and beautiful day in Paris. Now, being Dutch, but having lived in the US for 10 years (and just getting back from a visit this week) this book hits so close to home in terms of the cultural depictions - a debate I often have. People are always asking me why I prefer to live in the Netherlands and what the difference between the cultures is. I may, next time, just point those people over to this book. The Dutch think "time is fluid", while Americans think time is rigid. Americans are organized, planned, and especially on vacations plan out so many details that I think the fun is kind of taken out of it, while the Dutch are more hedonistic and enjoy life. That's not to say that the Dutch are fun and Americans are boring (certainly there's exceptions to both cases) but when I explain the cultural difference I always say, "The Dutch work to live and Americans live to work." That mentality trickles down into a lot of other facets of both cultures, and I thought Gayle encapsulates the difference very well in the two main characters.
In part 1, while Allyson is a super relatable and pleasant main character, my focus was on Willem. Oh my lord. Not only do I love how typically and cutely Dutch he is (what with his hagelslag, uitsmijters, love of water and canals) but the constant teasing made him so adorable. While a hot, mysterious, constantly-wearing-a-mask love interest is not particularly new to YA, I feel like Gayle did it so much better than any others I read. Maybe it's just that he's Dutch. I mean, guys swearing in Dutch is just so freaking hot. (Seriously had the giggles when he cursed "Godverdomme!")
And then there's the romance itself...
"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." - Just One Day, Gayle Forman
Woah, Gayle, you're really bringing out the hopeless romantic in me. And can I have my own Willem? Just you know... Send him over to Rotterdam. (Living in Amsterdam is overrated anyway.)
Part 2: One Year
The second part covers Allyson's first year of college where she sadly must move on from that one perfect day. It's not easy. But it's not supposed to be! I loved the realism of this part of the story. It really accurately depicts the transition to independence that comes during the first years of college. You move away from your parents and begin to see that you decide which path you're on. And parents aren't as important anymore - friends are. Allyson's struggles to make friends while she's depressed tugged at my heartstrings, I mean, who among us cannot relate to that? (Lucky bastards, that's who.) But it sent this important message too, that even if you think some people have it easy, nobody is ever really who they say they are or how they appear to be. Everyone has vulnerabilities. It's always a bit of a game of pretend: there's always a layer underneath.
It's such an emotional journey of self-discovery that I couldn't help myself. I started highlighting quotes. So many parts just were so beautiful. I mean, I started tearing up when Allyson reads as Rosalind. Dee is awesome too. And overall this part of the story amazed me with the rich symbolism (which I usually don't pay too much attention to, but here it was beautiful).
"But then Mason touches my neck, to the spot on it where the cut from that night has since healed, and I pull away.
He was right, after all; it didn't leave a scar, though part of me wishes it had. At least I'd have some evidence, some justification of this permanence. Stains are even worse when you're the only one who can see them." - Just One Day, Gayle Forman
"I want to ask him where that kitchen is. Where he's from. But he seems guarded. Or maybe it's me. Maybe making friends is a specific skill, and I missed the lesson."- Just One Day, Gayle Forman
"I want to undo this. To make it right. But I have no idea how. I don't seem to know how to open up to people without getting the door slammed in my face. So I do nothing." - Just One Day, Gayle Forman
Now don't let this depress you! It's truly a beautiful story. It's not all rainbows and sunshine, but it captures Allyson's important journey to finding herself and her way in the world. When she finally is resolved to find Willem again, she has transformed into a strong woman, independent and courageous. The story becomes really uplifting.
"He gives me a little shrug, like, of course, why else? And at this point, I really have no right to be surprised by people's capacity for kindness and generosity, but still, I am. I'm floored every time." - Just One Day, Gayle Forman
While I've never really been the backpacking type, my connection to Allyson is encouraging me that if she can do it, so can I. Thanks for the renewing of my wanderlust. And what a beautiful depiction of the Netherlands. It really felt like home.
Which, sadly, brings me to the end. I'm not going to spoil anything, but it really feels like Gayle pulled out my heart and stomped on it. I mean, why end it there? (*cough*so you can sell another book, Debby*cough*) Sigh. Just. Sigh. Waiting sucks.
Basically, anyone with a heart?show more