Just One Day

When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Hello.

I would like to get back to this blogging thing.

I am very rusty. You may have to bear with me on this.

I remember a few years ago when Just One Year by Gayle Forman, the sequel to Just One Day, the book I’m reviewing today, came out. I was pretty new to blogging and it felt as though everyone was talking about it. At the time I thought it sounded like a typical romance that didn’t spark my interest (I am yet to read Just One Year so no spoilers please), so of course I never bothered picking up its predecessor. That is, until one of my housemates gave me her copy of Just One Day and told me that I. Must. Read. This. Book.  

So I did, and mate, now do I understand what all the fuss is about. Just One Day, like so many YA books marketed toward girls, is sold as this great story of romance. And while, yes, it is romantic as fuck, that isn’t really the point. It’s about identity, and how for some people that is so heavily informed by parents, friends and their expectations, that what it means to you, for yourself, gets totally lost. That’s what life is like for Allyson. Eighteen years old, she is stuck in the achingly familiar trap of friends she doesn’t have anything in common with and parents who are caring, but utterly oppressive, and she’s just about to crash land into the next stage of her life, university, when everything is supposed to change – except, it doesn’t.

In the midst of this her parents send her on a trip to Europe with the ‘best friend’ she has long since ceased to have anything in common with and she runs into Willem.

Willem.

Willem might actually be one of the hottest book boyfriends ever written. Allyson meets him at an outdoor staging on Twelfth Night and then in a completely out of character move it’ll take her almost half the book to replicate, she runs away to Paris with him for – you guessed it – just one day. Considering Allyson will spend the entire rest of the book obsessing about this man who – as the blurb says – vanishes, he had to be pretty special to sustain your interest. I won’t go into it too much because, spoilers, but suffice to say had I spent really any amount of time with this man, I would have been obsessed with him too.

But, as much as we love Willem (and I really can’t emphasise enough how much we do), it’s after his disappearance that the bulk of Allyson’s character development takes place.

Allyson can be kind of a frustrating character. She’s passive, moody and defeatist. But stick with her. All of these traits – which could easily be unbearably annoying – work in Allyson because of the care Gayle Forman has taken to demonstrate why Allyson is the way she is. She has spent her entire life with no space to breathe; her parents have scheduled and controlled everything down to a T, and the guilt her mother heaps on top of her whenever she tries to switch up the dynamic is so intense you really can’t blame her for crumbling almost every time. It is that sense of crumbling – which we see Allyson do a lot of throughout the book – that makes her such a believable character and ultimately somebody that you want to root for. Digging her way out of the trench that her parents have kept her in is a true struggle.

For Allyson, finding the way out begins with wanting to find the boy – that’s the motivation. But it’s never really about that. In finding for the first time, something – someone – she desperately wants, it’s like she reclaims a little piece of herself back from the pressures around her. She finds a piece of herself that is her own. That feeling, that wanting is strong enough to push up against the guilt that has controlled her for her entire life – and once the spark is lit, it only grows. And Allyson has to follow it.

So Just One Day isn’t so much a romance novel. It’s about building yourself.

It’s about being afraid – and how that fear can totally dominate your life if you let it.

It’s about not letting it.

Yeah, this was a book written for teenagers but, as a 27-year-old woman navigating a life completely changed from the one I had a year ago (hence the total lack of blogging, which, honestly, sorry not sorry) I found it so inspiring. And comforting too.

Change is hard, but worth it.

The blog glo-up tag

I never do these! But Wendy tagged me (thank you!) AND I secretly love talking about myself (in writing. If you meet me IRL and ask me any questions about myself I’ll turn red and mumble something at you about the continuing question of my life trajectory and secretly resent the heck out of you before asking you many questions about yourself so as to divert the conversation entirely away from the subject of me) so let’s DO IT.

Rules

  1. Credit the original creator, whatthelog
  2. Answer the questions!
  3. Tag as many or as few people as you like

Why did you create your blog?
‘Twas the summer of 2015 and I was about to graduate university (I had a heart attack when I realised how long ago I graduated. I have been out of university as long as I was in it. WHAT IS LIFE AND WHY DOES IT GO SO FAST?!) where I had been studying English Literature and Creative Writing. In the absence of any life plans, direction or focus I thought hey, I’ll blog about books.

(I feel like I should mention that life plans, direction and focus are things I now have on an intermittent basis. If you’re worried about that right now – I promise, one day you will have those things. And on that day you’ll realise you now have a whole new list of things to feel anxiety about. Sorry about that.)

When did you first start your blog?
I could look to confirm this but I’m fairly sure it was around May 2015. I remember sitting in my house in Norwich in the last few weeks before I moved out and writing a review for I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson.

Have you had any significant design or name changes?
Nah. I am no longer 22 – and perhaps including my age in my blog title was a little short sighted, but I cannot emphasise enough how at the time I started this blog I had no plans or ideas about my future whatsoever – but I still like my blog’s name. And as for design… I am bad at that. Making and uploading that fucking banner took me so long that I can assure you it will remain forever.

What has been the biggest change to your blog’s content?
When I first started writing I had pretty strict rules for myself about posting at least three times a week. These days I post once a week, if at all. The reason for this was partly quality and partly laziness. I am a writer by trade and churning out content for the sake of content made me feel bad about myself. I also, to be totally honest, just don’t read enough to post more than one review per week.
Also, I’m lazy. That’s the main reason but those other ones sound better.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your blogging journey?
Oooh I love this question! I mean obviously I have to mention Marie. Her hard work and dedication to blogging constantly inspires me to keep working on this even on weeks I really don’t feel like it. Also CW – her reviews are so well written, analytical and beautifully expressed.
Whenever I am tempted to upload something I’m not totally proud of/not upload anything at all, I think of them and keep working.

If before you started you could look at your blog now, what would surprise you the most?
That I’m still writing it! In the past I haven’t been so good at sticking to things. While there have certainly been times when I’ve gone on the odd unexpected hiatus, overall I’ve written fairly consistently for the past almost four years.
I think it would also come as a shock to 22-year-old me that I’m not primarily reading YA any more. I still LOVE it, but I increasingly reach for books more marketed toward my own age group. My love of memoir and the influence of things like the Belletrist book club have meant that my reading taste has expanded considerably.

What personal milestone have you hit that makes you the proudest?
For me it’s really any time someone praises my writing. Ultimately that’s my thing so whenever I hear I’ve done that right it feels like winning.

What do you see next for your blog?
I… really don’t know. My life is changing pretty significantly within the next couple of months. I’ve got a new – albeit temporary – job that is going to demand a lot from me. I have to move to a new city all my own – also potentially temporarily, though I guess it depends on what happens when I get there.
My plan is to try and keep this thing going despite the fact I’m going to have a lot on.
As usual I have no clue what is happening in my life beyond the next few months. I am gradually learning to roll with it – or, at least, deal with the intense anxiety that comes with all this rolling.

I am tagging (if you fancy it)
CW @ The Quiet Pond
Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books 
Tanaz @ The Keysmash Blog