I was really excited for this one. Gayle Forman's previous novels have been full of lyrical prose and stunning emotion, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on her latest work so that I could go through the emotional ringer again.
And, although the novel is far from perfect, in the end I was not disappointed.
The first half of Just One Day relies on a sort of reverse Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, which I will call Free-Spirited Player Dude. Our high-achieving, unadventurous, unsatisfied, safe and unassuming heroine Allyson meets Free-Spirited Player Dude, who has been travelling for two years, doesn't believe in love, and seems to have girls in every port. He inspires her to go on a spontaneous, one day only trip to Paris, where she attempts to learn how to be spontaneous, bold and free spirited herself.
It's not as cliched as it sounds, and the writing is excellent, but I couldn't get rid of the sense that this was a tale where the sexy bad-boy teaches our heroine how to be less uptight (and she, in turn, will probably distract him from his bad-boy player ways).
Turns out I was wrong.
The second half of the novel is far superior. After her just-one-day, Allyson goes off to college, where she's deeply unsatisfied trying to be the person that everyone expects her to be. Forced to be pre-med by her parents, losing touch with her life-long childhood friend back home and unable to connect with her roommates, she sinks into depression and feels completely lost. And then, in a bid to save her grades and her sanity, she signs up for an unorthodox Shakespeare class, and begins the journey of discovering, for herself, who she really is and who she wants to be.
Focussed on identity, performance, and the need to forge your own personal space in the world, Just One Day is ultimately a refreshing, inspiring novel. Easy to read, easy to love, Just One Day will make you want to travel, take risks, and get out in the world to see what adventure might befall you. Definitely worth a read.