Shiirleyy's Bookshelf has migrated to Dear Shirley ! I will continue to post book reviews but there will also be a lot of personal and travel-related posts :)

Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

25 Feb 2014

by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Random House 
Release Date: January 10th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 369 pages

 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.

*** This is a long overdue review. I wrote this around mid-2013 and I remember this book had a huge impact on me as I could relate to the main character perfectly. I think if I'd read this any sooner or any later, it *might* not have impacted me on such a personal level. Basically, all I have to say is; life is unpredictable :) ***

Gayle Forman never fails to impress. Her books are automatically placed on my “will-buy-for-sure” list as soon as the announcement for the publication is made, and honestly, her books will always be worth my money. I thought Just One Day was entirely different from If I Stay and Where She Went, at least in respect to how they affected me. While Forman’s first duology was heart shattering, poignant and left me bawling my eyes out every time I read them, Just One Day was less of a tearjerker, but I related to it on a personal level.

 Allyson ‘Lulu’ Healey is reminiscent of the typical, lost YA/New Adult main character we’re so familiar with. What makes her stand out, however, is how the readers are privy to all aspects of her life- her transition from the girl she’s always been, and the girl she wants to be and the journey she embarks on in order to truly find herself. She’s always been a 'good' girl, the sort of girl my Asian parents (and her Jewish parents) want as a daughter; she’s taking subjects her parents want her to study in college, no objections raised because well…it’s what she thinks she should be doing. Her mother controls her life; she chooses the subjects, tells her what she should be doing. Hell, her mother even picks out her outfits. While my parents are by no means like that, I do understand what it feels like to have someone else control my life, while I sit quietly and dutifully on the sidelines listening to lectures of how what has been planned out for me is for my own good and how ‘it doesn’t matter if I don’t like what I study, as long as it gets me somewhere in life’.

 It’s obvious in the first few chapters Allyson has no idea what she truly wants in life, and it’s something I understand. At home, her mother takes charge, and outside of home, her best friend Melanie takes charge. Allyson is the ‘sidekick’, the ‘shadow’ when she’s with Melanie. They’ve been best friends for almost/over a decade and while it's realistic how the two began to grow apart as they left for different Unis, it's also regrettable and heartbreaking. This, I can also relate to. While most of my friends/close friends are either in the same Uni as me, or is studying at a nearby Uni (we’re all in the same city), I can feel the distance developing between all of us.  It seems surreal for a 10 year friendship to just fade away into an awkward ‘hello’ during unexpected encounters, but it’s reality. It happens. The memories will stay with you, but like in Just One Day, both Melanie and Allyson changed throughout the year, and sometimes, it just becomes too tiring to make an effort for two completely different people to ‘make things work’. I liked seeing Allyson become closer with her new friends from college (thought honestly, I have yet to meet a potential gay best friend from my own Uni!!). NOTE: I HAVE MET A GAY GUY FRIEND! YAYYYYY<33333

It is debatable whether love plays a major role in the book or not; I personally wouldn’t say it does. Sure, Allyson spends the majority of the year pining over what may have happened between them, but I think that while her relationship with Willem contributed to her change, she wasn’t so much mourning him so much as mourning herself. Being with Willem brought out the side of her she always wished she had the courage to show everyone; it’s not necessarily the real her, but it’s who she wants to be. And she was this person for one day. This story is ultimately Allyson’s journey to find that person who was lost the morning she woke up to find herself abandoned by Willem. I don't know about other people, but this feels like me minus the boyfriend part. I have this side that I show to most people, that people recognise as 'Shirley', but there's also this other side of me that is only brought out when I'm around certain people. Like Allyson, it's the side I want to show the world and it's the side I mourn when I'm not with these certain people. We all interpret books differently, but this is how I pictured Allyson's life. 

Some people will read this merely for the enjoyment of it, but for me, this was more than just an entertaining read. Half the time I felt like the author had thoroughly analysed my life, wrote it as a novel  with a few alterations here and there. Obviously I loved it, and the only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars is because my emotions didn't run wild here. If I'd had a tumultuous relationship with the book, eliciting all these different emotions in me at different stages then it would have been perfect<3 Nevertheless, this is something EVERYONE should read!


  1. You've convinced me, I want to read this book asap! I've heard so many good things about Gayle Foreman's novels, and they all sound so realistic. I don't think I can relate to Allyson as much as you in terms of uni and being told what to study and do - but I have Asian parents too. And their lectures do become overbearing at times. But luckily, they let me do what I want and makes me happy.

    And it's true. Friendships will always fade if no effort is put into it. I've experienced this a few too many times for my liking. But on the bright side, new friendships will always be made! I'm so glad you loved this book, it sounds beautiful. I cry at the drop of a hat though, so even if you didn't cry, I think I might still! :P

  2. Oh I didn't like her "friend" Melanie, at all! I loved Allyson's growth and her ability by the end to stand up for herself, but I wasn't a huge fan of Willem here. Still, the story was compelling. Great review! :)

  3. I haven't read this book but I have heard some brilliant reviews of this one including yours. I love when books have a huge impact on you and they are some of my favourite authors now. I do agree that life is unpredictable and I've learnt that now more than ever. I really enjoy books that relate to reality on a personal level and you can really connect with the characters they are always the best contemporaries especially if I shed a tear for it. :) Brilliant review, Shirley.

    P.S Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog. I love your new layout and design as well. I don't know if I ever said. So I'm saying it now... <3

  4. Gay guy friends are some of the best friends a girl can have! Yay.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I really liked it, too (4 stars for me), and I hear the second book is awesome as well. I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I should soon. I'm hoping there will still be macarons even though they won't be in Paris. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  5. I'm glad that you were able to relate to this book on such a personal level Shirley, it's rare when books can actually do that but awesome when it happens nonetheless. I absolutely loved this book, it was actually one of my favourites from last year, so I'm glad to see such a favourable rating and gorgeous review from you! :)


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