Welcome to book club, you lovely, lovey people. If you’re reading this and have already read Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, feel free to participate in the comments on this blog and the others listed below. This is a very welcoming book club. Not welcoming enough to provide tea and cookies, but welcoming all the same. (Also, if you want to get specific, there are cookies on this blog, just of the HTTP variety.)
Before we chat, a couple notes:
Warning No. 1: Before you read on, you should know that this review is slightly spoilery. Not totally, but if you want to be completely surprised, you may want to close your eyes.
Warning No. 2: This review is biased. Well, come to think of it, most reviews are biased. As readers, we can’t help but judge a book on our personal preferences, our past, and so forth. I think you should keep that in mind while reading my review.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Like I said, this is a biased review. And I think in order for you to really understand it, you first need to know something about me: I generally dislike male love interests who flirt with a ton of girls, sleep around, and are otherwise candidates for Player of the Year. Note that I didn’t say characters who are players, just love interests. And note that I said generally, not always.* Understanding this about me is important right now.
(Almost but not quite as important as knowing I hate ketchup on inappropriate foods, mayonnaise, and onions more than anything.)
First off, let me say that Gayle Forman’s writing once again drew me in. The settings she conjured were one of my favorite parts of the book, which unsurprisingly made me want to travel the world RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
She’s also created some truly wonderful characters, though their wonderfulness is overshadowed by Allyson’s friend Dee. His scenes were the best in the book. Of course, other side characters were great, too. The tour guide leader. The Shakespeare professor. The best friend who’s trying to find herself. The restaurant chef. The travelers from Oz. I loved each and every one of the characters in this book—except one.
Which brings me to Willem.
Here’s the thing: Going into this book, I knew the story would be a romance. Had I not known that, I think I would have liked Willem at the beginning. He’s the type of guy who’d make a great travel companion—as a friend. And I really loved how he pushed Allyson out of her comfort zone.
But they’re not friends, not the entire time.
And that’s what got me. From the minute they set off, he’s eyeballing other girls. He gets half naked with another, and even if it isn’t in a romantic way, he’s the type of guy who lets his ex undress him and thinks nothing of it. He’s the kind of guy who flippantly tells Allyson that, oh yeah, the girl he said was a friend is actually someone he fell in love with once. And he’s the type of guy to have girls scattered across Europe.
Granted, it’s not all his fault. He never says the day is anything but fun. He never promises anything and never indicates he’s interested in anything but a one-time thing. I understand this, and I guess I can’t fault him for that. Maybe it’s Allyson’s fault for thinking there was meaning to their daylong relationship.
But I don’t think that’s it.
I think we’re going to find out that his time spent with Allyson was meaningful to him. That he liked her. Maybe he didn’t consider her a stain on his life like she did him (and this is the part where, if you haven’t read the book you go, HUH?) but I think it meant something.
But I couldn’t make myself fully blame Allyson for her (seemingly?) unrequited feelings and the depression that follows. When I traveled at Allyson’s age, I was just like her: very play by the rules, color within the lines. Traveling on your own or with a friend and meeting people from all over the world really can change you. (Not that I’m, like, a wild child. Hardly.)
I also believe you can fall in love in a day simply because everything about the place you’re in—the fact that you’re there on your own, that everything is foreign, that you’re figuring out who you are—is romantic. So I can see how doing something daring (because up and leaving for a foreign country with a stranger is daring) and being in Paris could make her fall for Willem. I absolutely believe this.
|Look! A kissing gif to make up for the blocks of text.|
And I think that’s why I couldn’t get behind the relationship. True, we weren’t in Willem’s head (and I’m sure there’s much more to him than what he let Allyson see), but there were no outward indications that he liked her as more than a one-day fling. Yes, he was worried when she got hurt, but any friend would feel that way. His other qualities didn’t redeem him enough for me to like him or like him with Allyson (who I wished would quit her search and look for a straight guy with Dee’s personality).
That said, the mystery of what happened to Willem was interesting and kept me turning pages, and I really liked the reason he had for up and leaving. There’s a cliffhanger ending, and the next book is told from Willem’s point of view, which I hope makes me like him more. I’m guessing that will be the case since he’ll probably have the opportunity to tell us exactly what Allyson means to him. (Or maybe he won’t. Because...that ending.) And I hope he has a good reason for the girls scattered around Europe like used train tickets.
Maybe a final warning is in order: This book is getting phenomenal reviews and my dislike for love interests who screw around and act casual about it definitely colors my review. So I’d encourage you to read others’ (like the ones posted below!) to get a well-rounded view of the book.
Okay, guys. Let’s have it:
* For example, Sam Henry in Miranda Kenneally’s Catching Jordan sleeps around and is one of those guys I shouldn’t like for a romantic interest. But everything else about him makes me love him, and he’s clearly smitten with Jordan. So by the time these two get together I’m waving my pom-poms like, YES!