Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

In Just One Day by Gayle Forman, an American ditches a dull teen tour to run off with a Shakespeare actor from Holland. Allyson's romantic fantasy becomes a nightmare when Willem abandons her in Paris. Back in the USA for college, she circles into depression. Her helicopter mom expects Allyson to follow her father along the premed path, but the former straight-A student can't handle the advanced coursework. Her endless moping over Willem alienates her roommates too.

The one class that motivates Allyson is a Shakespeare elective. As Allyson contemplates the theme of identity in the plays, she realizes that what she misses isn't only Willem, but the free-spirited girl she was around him. In a logical leap that only a teenaged girl could make, Allyson decides that to find herself she must find the guy who abandoned her, even if this means defying her parents.
"And this is the truth. I may be only eighteen, but it already seems pretty obvious that the world is divided into two groups: the doers and the watchers. The people things happen to and the rest of us, who just sort of plod on with things."

Just One Day is a good example of an emerging genre called New Adult Fiction. The characters are no longer in high school but not quite independent adults either.  There are consequences from risky behavior (street brawls, drinking and hook ups), but the teen characters don't necessarily learn from their mistakes. In this innovative novel, the search for identity is like an audition in which the characters try on different personalities and sexual orientations like clothes.

Just One Day brought back a lot of memories for me. The summer after high school, I traveled around Europe with my friends staying in hostels, watching opera in Roman ruins, dancing in night clubs and going to a black tie dinner at an American embassy in a rumpled black sundress. During a term off from college, I also had a relationship with a gorgeous Dutchman who then disappeared from my life. Unlike Allyson, I didn't pin all my happiness on being with a guy, although I did relate to the challenge of transitioning to life at college and to the emotional turbulence of those years.

I'd recommend this young adult/new adult novel to mature teens and to adults who want to remember what it felt like to be swept away by the awe of discovery. The descriptions of Europe were so realistic that you can taste the gourmet food. Author Gayle Forman worked as a journalist abroad; she knows her settings and she knows her teens. She writes really well too. A sequel told in Willem's voice, Just One Year, will be released on October 15, 2013. I'd also recommend Forman's If I Staywhich has a sequel in the guy's voice (Where She Went).

Reviewer's Disclaimer: I bought this book on its release (January, 2013) without compensation.

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@Barrie Summy


Carol said...

Sarah, Your reviews are always inspiring . . . it would be fun to go back to the days of being young in Europe trying to find myself. I have to thank you for the recommendation of 'A Tale for a Time Being' I love it! It would have taken me a lot longer to have discovered it if not for you! Wonderful photographs!

tina said...

Sounds like a novel about a brave girl who knows herself and really learns about life. We should all learn from her lessons.

Stacy Nyikos said...

I read If I Stay and enjoyed it, but I've put off reading this novel because of the guy fixation. Admittedly, it may hit a little too close to home. I spent a year in Innsbruck, then five in Kiel, and during those years fell in love with a German to whom I'm now married and have two children, and while I was head over heels in love, when we broke up at one point, and I was devastated, I still pulled my life together and stayed in school, etc. It frustrates me that the female protagonist who makes the page, however, is the one who spirals into depression and quits school. It's not very empowering. Then again, this is literature. It's not a self-help book, but I'd rather see the girl who keeps it together as the main protagonist. We need more of them. Nevertheless, this book is great food for conversation!

Sarah Laurence said...

Carol, I’m so happy to hear that you are loving A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING too. I’m about halfway through myself. JUST ONE DAY is more geared to a high school/college audience, but I think adults would enjoy it too. The photos are from my last trip to France in 2007. In high school I was a French exchange student and have returned many times for vacation or to visit friends.

Tina, Allyson starts out meek but matures into a brave and capable young woman.

Stacy, I share your distaste of stories about guys who ruin a girl’s life, and I’m sorry that you had to live through that even if your personal narrative had a happy ending. However, this book is not about a girl who drops out of college to chase a guy. She looks for him over vacation. It has an empowering message, but I still wish Allyson didn’t let a guy be the center of her life. I can’t say more without a spoiler. As a parent of a teenaged daughter, this book was still hard to read, but it also rang true. After reading this post, my mom just emailed to say how worried she was when I got involved with my Dutchman, but she didn’t interfere. I was 20 and acted surprisingly responsible. A year later I fell in love with the Englishman who is my husband.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds interesting, Sarah. I really haven't tried the New Adult genre yet. Loved your pictures of European settings. That added a lot to the review.

Thanks for dropping by my steampunk fun post. :)

Alyson | New England Living said...

I always love when you review! This would probably bring back some remembrances of my days as a 16-17 year old in England. I'm putting it on my list.

Elizabeth said...

Now, this is something I could totally relate to.
You make it sound an excellent read.

Donna said...

Reading this book sounds like a good way to go to Europe! I bet New Adult Fiction will become a big genre since young adult fiction has become so popular in recent years.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Wow now this is one of those reviews that really makes me want to get the book :)

Barrie said...

In Vegas and finally getting around to this month's reviews. The internet is spotty at this hotel, so I'm hopping on right now while it's available. :) Okay...I loved If I Stay, so I'm sure I'd like this book. There's something about Gayle Forman's voice that just grabs me. Thanks for reviewing.

Barrie said...

Oh, and thank you for adding photos. Also, Stacy, I can relate to what you were saying. Some books do hit too close to home. And it's like we've never totally gotten over some of this guy stuff.

Steph Su said...

Absolutely love this review. You make me sure that this is the kind of book I'd love to read right now in my nomadic mode, while also noting that some of Allyson's decisions may seem a bit illogical in retrospect. This is definitely going to be among the first books I seek out during my time back in the States.

Gloria Baker said...

love this review Sarah and I love the market picture!
dear Sarah the last times I dont visit so much because my mom was really sick now she is better; is really sad look how our parents are more older sigh!
have a nice weekend!

troutbirder said...

Well at least I know have a clearer picture of what the genre young adult fiction is about. Perhaps my lack of interest tells me me late teens and college years were not very interesting or pehaps I grew up way too soon. I started teachering at 21 and my students were mostly 17-18...:) Pater familias was my motto with them. :(

Amanda Summer said...

this book sounds totally up my alley - and thank you for introducing me to this new genre of fiction. i've been struggling with trying to see the book i'm writing as ya but it completely fits the concept of new adult. allyson's voice seems fresh, honest and compelling.

(i also enjoyed hearing about some of your youthful adventures - a rumpled black sundress and a gorgeous Dutchman are grounds for a wonderful story!)

Amanda Summer said...

i just did a little research on the new adult genre and there seem to be multiple definitions - some state it refers to explicit sexual content, so this surprises me. I was hoping it referred to more of a general evolution beyond the ya genre.

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson, I’d love to hear how this book compared to your experience abroad as a teen.

Elizabeth, you’d appreciate the multiculturalism.

Linda & OE, thanks!

Barrie, thanks for hosting! Stacy and you are right about some books hitting too close to home.

Steph, safe journeys and I look forward to your review!

Gloria, welcome back! I’m glad to hear that your mother is better.

Troutbirder, for my senior project in high school I taught a full credit class in Animal Behavior to classmates my age. I hear you on the challenges of being too close to your students.

Amanda (and Donna), new adult is an emerging genre, which includes a range of books from commercial to literary. Mainstream media are confused and are sensationalizing the sexual aspect of some books in this new genre. You don’t find explicit sex in YA since it is written for minors, but that doesn’t mean that New Adult is erotica, only that there is no reason to censor sex scenes for mature readers. You are wise to research what genre fits your novel, but these are just marketing categories. YA became a well-established market over the past decade, and I agree with Donna that New Adult will take some time to settle too.

You can learn more about New Adult on these librarian blogs:
A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy:

Jenn Jilks said...

I am not able to read about this era! Thanks for the heads up!

Art and Sand said...

I am always looking for different reading material. Thanks for the recommendation.

A Cuban In London said...

Brilliant review. I'm still catching up with blog posts so I'm reading yours top to bottom. I quite like the grey area you describe. Out of college but not an adult yet. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.