Allyson Healy is on the trip of a lifetime around Europe right after high school when she meets Dutch actor Willem the last night before she returns home. The pair hit it off right away, and before she knows it, Allyson is headed to Paris with Willem for just one day, the one city she never got to visit on her tour.
In Paris, Allyson falls in love with the city of love- and with Willem. Their one day passes much too quickly, and the next morning when she wakes up, Willem is gone. Back home and at college now, Allyson tries to figure out what happened on that day. Suddenly the life and goals she had planned for herself up until this point seem wrong, and Allyson struggles to be the girl her parents think she is.
But before she can move forward, Allyson decides she needs to know what happened on that one day. And so she embarks on the journey of a lifetime to retrace her footsteps back to Paris, back to Willem, and back to herself.
Just One Day was probably one of this year’s highly anticipated YA books, after Gayle Forman’s successful If I Stay and Where She Went books. I was fairly excited for this book, and had a feeling that I would enjoy it, especially since I absolutely LOVED Forman’s If I Stay.
While I did enjoy the book, the beginning was a bit tricky to barrel through. I found Allyson a bit of a spoiled brat, especially since she seemed to constantly be whining about how Europe wasn’t all as amazing as she had imagined. I can understand that feeling of being let down, but this beginning portion of the book was frustrating, especially since I would kill to go on a trip like that, and all Allyson was doing was picking faults with it.
The whole setup of going to Paris for a day with Willem was also tough to stomach. We are told that Allyson is a ‘good’ girl, a girl who is sensible and doesn’t rebel. This is why I found it difficult to believe that she would go so far out of her comfort zone and so quickly. It was a more than a bit unrealistic and made me question her good judgement, because she didn’t actually know Willem. I know this is fiction, but he could have been a serial killer or a rapist and she wouldn’t know!
While the beginning part of the story was a bit too romanticized for my taste, it was the next two thirds of the book I enjoyed a lot, especially since it focused on Allyson in university and the process of growing up. Allyson’s struggles with becoming an adult and figuring out her way in the world are what endured her to me. University is no walk in the park, and it’s especially difficult if your parents have a plan for you, while you have another.
I also appreciated the fact that the purpose of Allyson’s story wasn’t to recover this great, grand, glittering romance she had in Paris on that one day, but to discover herself. On that one day, Allyson was brave and fearless, and so her journey back to Paris isn’t all about Willem, but about recovering that version of herself that she’s afraid she’s lost. And while getting to Paris isn’t the easiest thing to do, Allyson makes up her mind and goes.
Overall I really enjoyed Just One Day. While the love story was cute, it wasn’t all roses and sparkles. The point of the story is Allyson and it was this journey of self discovery that was the most rewarding. There isn’t a big, cheesy reunion between the pair, but there are hints that there’s more to Willem and his disappearance than meets the eye. I’m eager to read his story in the sequel Just One Year.
So for that: 3.5/5.
Thanks for reading,