Just One Day Gayle Forman Book Review

I know I should wait on writing this review of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, because the book doesn’t come out until January 8th, but you guys I can’t hold it in. I JUST CAN’T. I freakin loved Just One Day and want to shout it to the world. While reading I felt so many things — wanderlust, empathy, annoyance, the swoons. ALL OF THE THINGS. And I just kind of really want a time machine so it can be January 8th, and you will all have read the book and then we can discuss, because for real, I NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO ABOUT THIS BOOK. Is that endorsement enough? Seriously, I cannot recommend Just One Day highly enough.

Just One Day Gayle Forman Book Cover

As a graduation present, Allyson’s parents have paid for her to do a tour of Europe through Teen Tours! On her last day, she is in London with her friend Melanie. Allyson decides to break with her regular characteristics and do something daring — skipping the Royal Shakespeare Company to see a performance of Guerrilla Shakespeare. She finds herself connecting with the guy who plays Sebastian, named Willem. Anyways, the two end up spending the next day together in Paris and well, it’s kind of intense. The next day, however, Allyson wakes up and Willem is gone. She thinks the worst. The rest of Just One Day deals with Allyson processing what happened with Willem over the course of a year and really examining her life and the things that confine/define her. This is, to me, one of the quintessential coming of age books. I mean that in the best possible way.

Here’s the thing, Allyson as a character had the potential to really rub me the wrong way. She could have been one of the self-righteous stuck up little brats, but instead, I wound up really rooting for her even though I have little in common with her. She has immense pressure on her from her parents who want her to really succeed in life. The pressure is so great that her mom has picked out her college class schedule. I KNOW. Plus, Allyson spends a good chunk of Just One Day in emo mode. Girl is LETHARGIC, yo. BUT THEN, she starts to come around. She starts to grow. She starts to finally do things for herself and I loved that. I loved that Gayle Forman actually made Allyson a dynamic character and made her go through a sort of change that I see a lot of people go through when they leave home. I love that she actually shows Allyson following her heart and carving out a place for herself in the world.

Straight up, I love reading books that involve traveling. I haven’t done a whole lot of it myself — I’ve never left North America. When books involve characters jet setting across the world or striking out on their own in a different culture, the book has all of my attention. Just One Day definitely gave me wanderlust. Like, I had started to convince myself as I read that I should save money to go to Europe or something. THEN combined with the Europe-y bits are the college-y bits. AND YOU GUYS IT IS LIKE A DOUBLE RAINBOW. Seriously, I love the idea of traveling and I can vouch for how awesome college is. And again, while I had a totally different less wet blanket sort of college experience than Allyson, I loved reading about her and how she was acclimating, or well, not quite acclimating to college. You’ll see when you read Just One Day.

Gayle Forman absolutely has a way with words. I mean, yes, Just One Day is longer than If I Stay and Where She Went, but it reads just as fast as those two. I was immediately pulled in to the story and Allyson’s tightly controlled, highly regimented world. I felt ALL OF THE FEELS for the characters. I actually had empathy while reading. I found myself thinking about Just One Day when it was more conducive to think about other things — like my presentations. I found myself working fast so I could take breaks to read Just One Day. Frankly, while it did not slam to me on the level of If I Stay, I think it’s a spectacular display of Forman’s talent as a writer and definitely goes into my top ten favorite contemporary reads.

If you came to swoon, swoon, swoon, and throw your book in the air sometimes, saying ayyy ohhh got to FRENCH, oh, then YOU CAME TO RIGHT PLACE. For reals, you guys, I don’t ever think about the Dutch or think of Dutch people as particularly attractive (Tony’s got a lot of Italian in him) — I thought Willem really did it as a romantic lead. Like, I will say that he reminds me of a lot of those player guys from high school who had a different girl every week, but I still liked the character of Willem. I liked his whole theory about love and being stained, and no it is not gross like it sounds. AND I think you might like Willem too, if you share characteristics with me. Plus, there’s a love scene that will make you want to highlight the page and text it to all of your YAvangelist friends.

And while I totally LOVED Just One Day, a few things were brewing in my brain after reading. Namely, I was thinking about privilege, because I have been reading a lot of Jezebel lately. I was thinking about how Allyson honestly lives a very charmed life. Her dad is a doctor who makes enough money for her mom to stay home. Allyson doesn’t have to worry about paying back college loans or finding money to pay for $500 text books. Her mom is ‘annoying’ in that she wants to lavish money on Allyson by buying her clothes. Her family goes on vacation to Mexico every year. Her parents not only pay for a huge trip to Europe, but also for one of those fancy expensive watches for her. And well, I kind of got to thinking where are the books about girls of color who travel across the world? Where are the books about girls who don’t lead charmed upper middle class lives who save and save and save to go to Europe or Asia or Africa or Australia, etc? And well, that’s not a criticism of Just One Day, but it was one of those things that just kind of popped into my head after reading.

After that paragraph maybe you think that I don’t recommend Just One Day or that I find fault with it, but I don’t. I really enjoyed reading Just One Day and had I started it at the beginning of the weekend, like on a Friday night chances are I would have read it in the span of one day or in a single sitting, it is that good. Yo, if you love books that are about people finding themselves, coming of age, and quite simply love in it’s myriad forms, it’s likely you’ll fall for Just One Day by Gayle Forman.

Disclosure: Gifted at Oblong Books for attending and buying books during a signing. HECK YES best indie bookstore EVER!!!!

Other reviews of Just One Day by Gayle Forman:

Reading, Writing And The World Of Words – “Forman masterfully crafts this story

Books By Gayle Forman:

If I Stay
Where She Went

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


    That is all.

  2. I am so glad to hear that you loved Just One Day, April! January 8 can’t come soon enough.

    I really had no idea what this was about so thanks to your great review, I now do. I like the sounds of this, the travel, the romance, life-examining.

    And I know what you mean about the privilege and I think it’s fantastic when a book can encourage you to have thoughts outside the book, and consider the world and our lives etc

    • Yes, January 8 feels so far away.

      I’m glad I could give you a clearer picture of Just One Day. It does encompass quite a lot, but it’s really good despite that.

      As for the privilege thing, I loved that Just One Day kind of sparked those thoughts in me, although I am 100% sure it was unintentional. Like, it made me think about how much of the contemporary YA I read are about privileged white girls and how I want to seek out contemporary and other YA subgenres that feature characters who deviate from that archetype.

  3. OMG, I can’t read the whole review, because I’m going to read it and don’t want to write this same review over but it my words, so yeah. However, I DID read the first paragraph and sort of skim the rest, and I garnered the most important thing: you loved it. My excitement level, which was at tentatively great is now at HELLS YEAH BRING IT ON.

    • It’s okay, Christina, I understand. I do exactly the same thing when I have definite plans to read a book. When I don’t have the definite plans, then I actually read the review and usually end up adding the book to my TBR.

      You garnered correctly! I absolutely LOVED Just One Day, and I do think it deserves a HELLS YEAH BRING IT ON for sure. 🙂

  4. I adored this book too , and thanks for bringing up the family aspect and being given things or trips. I did love that Allyson actually decided to be more independent . Loved Willem and being the stained …I can’t wait to read his story too.

    • Julie, I am glad to hear you adored JUST ONE DAY as well. I guess with all I’ve been reading about economic privilege, it really just popped into my head after finishing the book and sort of stuck with me. I also enjoyed reading Allyson’s journey towards becoming independent and somewhat self-reliant (her parents still pay for gas and she’s taking her parents car).

      YOU AND ME BOTH re: Willem.

  5. Earlier on in the year I read If I Stay and didn’t like it. *ducks for cover* I know you and the majority of readers really liked it but for some reason I just didn’t. So after that not-so-nice experience I was a little reserved about Just One Day because of my past experience with Forman but I LOVE contemporary and after recently giving an author another chance to win me over, was pleasantly surprised and ended in the book being a favourite of 2012. Now, after your hearing your glowing thoughts, I’m super looking forward to this. Thanks for the push I needed and for getting me excited about Just One Day – woohoo!

    Your review? EPIC, YO.

    • Rebecca, no need to duck for cover here. This is a safe place where it’s perfectly fine to not like a book. 🙂

      I did love If I Stay, but it’s okay that you didn’t. 🙂

      I think you should give JUST ONE DAY a chance, it is very, very different from If I Stay and Where She Went.

      Thanks for calling my review epic, I really appreciate that 😀

  6. I adored this book and I’m dying for the next one!

    I love the point you make about charmed lives and privilege. It’s not often that I read books about families that have a hard time making ends meet. I would definitely read those books.

    • Right? I desperately want Just One Year right this very second.

      I felt a little weird making that point because while it does have to do with the book, because the book sparked it, it kind of really deviates from talking about the story. But, I do think that Allyson leads an incredibly charmed life that in these economic times, most readers don’t and I thought it was important to acknowledge that.

      I’d read those books too!

  7. I like that you included a little something on privilege in this review. You’re right that it doesn’t detract from the book itself, but it is something we need to think about when reading (especially when you read so much).

    • Yes! Exactly my point! Like, I guess as I grow older and hopefully smarter, I like to read with thoughts of my place in the world in relation to the fiction that I read. And sometimes that means thinking about and acknowledging privilege — so for example the main character Allyson has much more privilege than I had growing up (pretty sure her dad drops more on her college tuition than my parents made combined in a year). But, when I read a book about a character of color, I acknowledge that I have experienced white privilege and think about unpacking that knapsack, ya know?

      Does any of this make sense, I feel so rambly here and it’s been a very long time since I’ve written about privilege in a smart-esque manner, ha ha.

      • Yes, that definitely makes sense. I wish more people read criticially also because I think it’s really important and adds a whole new level to the experience of reading and interacting with other media.

        • Right, I agree that reading critically does add a new dimension. I also think there’s a pervasive notion that if you read something critically, i.e. Twilight and reading it through a feminist lens and stating the relationship is unhealthy, you want to ban it. Which is totally false, but I’ve seen comments on other blogs where people think that way.

  8. I seriously need to read this ASAP. Like, right now. I am freaking out over how much I can’t wait to read this. It sounds A-MAZING. And now that I know you loved it to bits and pieces? My eagerness is now at 11.

    The travel. The mystery of what happened and how it helps her reflect on who she is or on what she is supposed to be. SO GOOD. You know how I love some personal growth and character development.

    I hear your criticism about YA with the wealthy upper middle class crew of peeps. I feel like it’s either that or they are dirt poor and the character is in a dicey situation. Solid social insight, yo.

    • The premise is pretty fabulous, but the execution is even better. I think you are going to dig the personal growth in JUST ONE DAY, knowing your love of characters.

      Thanks, it’s rare when I make social insights, but nice to have them validated, ya know?

  10. Your book store be doing it right and right by you because, man, YOU SO LUCKY. Seriously, how could you post this review so early?!?

    I loved If I Stay/Where She Went and have been wondering about another book by Gayle Forman. So when I saw this one, I immediately thought it better be good, yummy and interesting, and I think it will be now. I feel it’s going to be one of those Likely To Stay With Me Forever books, and that totes makes me excited! Want, want, want it.

    • The bookstore that I go to for events is THE BEST. I had to post the review early because I absolutely could not contain any of my feelings about this book.

      Dude, it is TOTALLY interesting and good. And definitely one for the KEEP THIS FOR ALWAYS shelf!

  11. Gahhhh it’s like reopening an old wound….I was so close to that ARC LOL! Alright–1/8 it is!!!!!! Great review–I wanted to read it before, now I’m kicking myself for not slide tackling you. :o)

  12. I so want to read this book because I loved Adam and Mia, and I’m glad you loved it so much.
    Can’t wait to read and and I’m glad there is a reason for the huge watch to be around 😀

    • Willem and Allyson are vastly different from Adam and Mia, but I think Forman continues to really get at the heart of the characters and add a special sort of depth. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

  13. By Jan.8 the Cybils will be done, and I will be on the look out for YA books like this one! Thanks for the heads up on it–I liked her first two, but I wasn’t really aware it was coming.

  14. I literally could not read your review because I AM SO STINKIN’ JEALOUS!

  15. I keep hearing good things about Oblong Books, I have a feeling it would be my favorite bookstore if I lived near your area. Love how enthusiastic you are in this review, April! I really can’t wait to read this because I thoroughly enjoyed both If I Stay and Where She Went. Plus a book about traveling and college? Sign me up! I bet you want to read Just One Year now. 😛

    • Oblong Books truly is a fabulous place.

      Sometimes it’s hard to contain enthusiasm, but in this case I did not want to contain mine.

      The travel and the college are definitely highlights.

      I am DYING for Just One Year!

    Honestly, I can’t get on board the If I Stay train like everyone else. I mean, I liked it but I didn’t cry all the tears about it. I have Where She Went (got them signed this past weekend HOLLA) but I haven’t read it yet.

    This is the one I want to read.

    • IT IS SO GOOD.

      This is a safe place to admit that you didn’t feel the tears while reading If I Stay. I bet you’ll end up liking Where She Went much better.


      I’m pretty positive you’ll be down for it, when you read it.

  17. This book sounds sincerely AMAZING. I love the fact that it involves travel (it’s ALWAYS a bonus when a book involves travel) and self-discovery. It sounds absolutely PERFECT, and I obviously cannot wait to check it out after your awesome review!

    • Right? I love when books involve travel and self-discovery as well. I think after falling in love with Wanderlove, I tend to look for that in YA lately.

      I hope you LOVE Just One Day when you read it, Alexa!

  18. I haven’t read anything by Gayle Forman (yet) but this sounds like it would be a terrific start! It’s funny because the concept of this book really resonates with me. Years ago I ran into a very vibrant, exuberant Aussie who was one of the most introspective and happy people I’ve ever met. We’re still friends to this day and he pushes me to take chances and say yes to things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I am always super appreciative for his presence because he really challenged me take a good look at the way I was living my life and make a change for the better. And it doesn’t hurt that we felt ALL THE FEELINGS back in the day either.

  19. Great review! I have added Foreman to my “always read” list — even without reading this one. Can’t wait till it comes out.

  20. I’m a new Gayle Forman fan…can’t wait to read this one!

  21. I really enjoyed If I Stay and I’m so immensely excited to read Just One Day! I saw Gayle Forman at Yallfest this year, and she is just as amazing as her books in person. I will surely be getting this the second it releases!

  22. BookChick313 says

    I really need to read this. I loved “If I Stay.” So glad you are having a giveaway for this one! =)

  23. Lauren Ellice says

    I already wanted this book SO BAD, but your review made me want it even more. I’m dying of anticipation! It sounds fabulous, just like Gayle Forman’s other books.

  24. This sounds so good! Cannot wait for it!

  25. This book is getting rave reviews…looking forward to reading it!

  26. I can’t explain how much I love Gayle! This book sounds SO SO SO GOOD!!

  27. Oh Gosh, I love Gayle Forman. Nobody can make me cry like she can. I absolutely require this book practically immediately.

  28. Jeez… With all the hype over this book out in the wild right now, I am REALLY feeling as though I must read it. NOW. Thanks for the giveaway and the promise of so many feels!!

  29. This book I have been waiting for the most! The vibe and story line is absolutely my cup of tea. When Gayle does a signing for this book, I will be there! Love her!

  30. I’m huge, huge fan of Gayle Forman’s books, so words cannot describe how excited I am to read this one. 🙂 And with all the awesome reviews I hear, January can’t come soon enough. Did I say how jealous I’m that you already read it?! Gah! Thanks for a great review! 🙂

  31. April, your review blew me away – beautiful and thoughtful! Brought the characters to life for someone who’s only seen the cover online. I seriously can’t wait to get it into my hands. Thank you!

  32. Okay, the flailing makes me want to read this ASAP! I also love a book on traveling and I just cannot say no to a coming of age story like this. I was excited before, because I really enjoyed If I Stay and Where She Went, but now I am dying to read Just One Day. Great review! 🙂

  33. OMG! OMG! I’m so freaking excited for Just One Day! I loved If I Stay and Where She Went! Gayle is amazing!

  34. Oooooooh yes, I’m so excited to try this one!

    Your last comment stuck, though. You’re so right, some of us have several $500 text books to buy plus other school payments so we can’t even begin to dream about traveling (though I still do, dreaming is for free right?) but I would reaaaaaaaally like to read about a girl who got to do it, it will give us all hope! (:

  35. Ana Lucía says

    Oh my goodness this book sounds amazing. I haven’t read any of her books (sadly) but I so want to read them all.
    And I love your review by the way, haha. The way you explains things 😉

  36. Ana Lucía says

    Oh my goodness this book sounds amazing. I haven’t read any of her books (sadly) but I so want to read them all.
    And I love your review by the way, haha. The way you explains things 😉

  37. I can’t wait to read this! Thanks for the review.

  38. Mary Preston says

    I think it’s great when a book brings up all kinds of questions for the reader. JUST ONE DAY looks fabulous.

  39. I can’t wait to read this! I love that it has travelling in it too. The reviews I have read so far have been really amazing.

  40. Great review!! I am soo excited to read it!!

  41. This is my #1 most-anticipated book of 2013 right now. I’ve loved the concept since I heard it, and I adored Where She Went (If I Stay was great, but Where She Went was BETTER). Great review – I actually kind of thought the same thing about privilege as I read your review…even the whole idea of the trip seemed very upper middle-class. That said, it sounds like it doesn’t detract from the actual story, which is good. I can’t wait to read about Allyson and Willem. Thank you for the review and giveaway – now I’m even more excited!!!!

  42. I only heard good things about this book and… IT’S GAYLE FORMAN. I loved If I Stay and Where She Went so I can’t wait to read it. This one of the most-anticipated book of 2013 for me right now. THanks for the review and the giveaway!

  43. I am really excited about this release. I’ve loved Gayle Forman’s other books and am so glad that something else she’s written is going to be available for me to devour really soon!

  44. I really really really want this book. I’ve only read If I Stay by Gayle Forman, but it was AMAZING, and over the holidays I plan to finish that series to prepare for this one. Glad the reviews are looking good too!

  45. It kinds sounds like Anna and the French Kiss. I absolutely loved that book, so I’m not complaining. I also love when a book is set in Europe. It makes me want to go back!

  46. gah.. .all the people with ARC of this book are killing me! I’m dying to read it and I know as soon as I finish I’ll want to read Willem’s POV immediately LOL

    Thanks for sharing the review and your giveaway!

  47. I’m so excited for this book!:)

  48. OMG! Can I just say that I am OBSCENELY jealous that you got it before January 8th? GAHH. I absolutely LOVE Gayle Forman, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading it when it comes out! 😀

  49. Thanks for the review! Gah, I’m so stoked for the release now!

  50. Soooo, I can’t really tell from this review… did you like it, or not?!?! (hee hee) Obviously I kid 😉 Sounds like you pretty much adored it!

    I agree with someone else above, I didn’t know much (in depth) what this book was about, so it was good to read your review and learn more. And it sounds really good. I also was not one of those fortunate enough to be sent on a year-long backpacking trip through Europe by my parents or anything (ahem), so it would be fun to read about!

    I completely hear what you’re saying about the things you were thinking about afterward, though, especially if you’ve been reading lots of Jezebel lately 🙂 It says a lot about you that you notice things like the lack of young women of color in YA fiction (except that specifically written by and/or marketed toward young women of color, right??), and we SHOULD see a lot more of it. The more folks like yourself talk about it, the more likely it is to happen! But you’re right, I don’t think it’s a knock against this book, just an observation about how it is v. how it should be. It’s good to hear that you didn’t think that Allison’s privileged life led to her being a character with which you couldn’t identify, because I think that is the challenge for an author – and shows why Gayle Forman is as popular and well-loved as she is.

    Thanks for the great review!!

  51. I fell in love with If I Stay and I am sure her new book will exceed my expectations. I just love the way she write and such powerful words 🙂

  52. Hi!
    I enjoyed reading your review of Just One Day, I also believe Gayle Forman is a wonderful writer and definitely deserves to be more well-known at an international level.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to read If I Stay, but I do want to before the movie comes out. I did read, however, her Just One Day series, and I loooved it! The story and the characters simply spoke to me and I grew quite attached to them.
    If you haven’t read Just One Year and Just One Night, I highly recommend them!
    P.S. I love your blog and I’m only sorry I discovered it so late. Will follow from now on! 🙂


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