Forthcoming sequel JUST ONE YEAR
By Gayle Forman
Available now from Dutton (Penguin)
JUST ONE DAY was not what I expected. I highly respect Gayle Forman, so I was expecting to love the novel. But I expected a romance. Allyson and Willem meet and have a whirlwind day before he disappears. In my head, based on the summary, I figured JUST ONE DAY would be all about finding Willem again and the true lovers reuniting. As Forman is an excellent author, what she delivered was much better than what I'd assumed. JUST ONE DAY really is Allyson's story. Willem shook her world up, for better or worse, and she has to decide how she wants to live her life and repair her relationship with herself before any sort of romance is going to work.
Upon physically looking at my bookmarks in the book, Willem and Allyson's relationship is not insignificant. At least two thirds of the book are basically what I expected. But that third that was so unexpected lingered in my mind. Allyson's freshman year of college is not easy. She's hurting, she's separated from her best friend and not doing well at making new ones, and her grades aren't what they were in high school. As everyone must, however, Allyson learns to adjust and reassess her goals. Part of the shock of college is being truly responsible for your life choices. Allyson's college experience doesn't resemble mine in any way, but it was emotionally authentic. Sometimes it was hard to read because her struggle hit so close to the bone.
If there's one thing Forman does really well it's play your emotions.
I have to give props to the entire cast. I'm sure many reviews will go on and on about how hot Willem is. I'll admit that he's intelligent and fun, but he has some douchebag qualities. Part of Allyson's growth is not idealizing Willem and figuring out if she wants to be with the guy who actually exists. But I want to say a few things about characters who might go unheralded. I love Kali, who emphasizes her words, and all of Allyson's other roommates, who might not be the people Allyson first assumes. (Who is?) Dee the chameleon is priceless and I want a book all about him. I like that Melanie falls in and out of the narrative because she has her own life and is adjusting, albeit in a different way than Allyson.
You should read JUST ONE DAY if you have any interest in contemporary YA, amateur Shakespeare, Paris, or impeccable characterization. Forman is one of YA's crown jewels and I think her new duet will only add to her reputation. I'm certainly looking forward to companion novel JUST ONE YEAR.