Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by this novel. It isn't a bad book or even a terribly written book--I just wanted more from it. The story is import...moreHonestly, I was a bit disappointed by this novel. It isn't a bad book or even a terribly written book--I just wanted more from it. The story is important and the premise compelling; we need more novels set in countries outside the US and we especially need more novels about the lives of LGBTQ teens and young adults in countries outside the US. I sympathized the characters here and enjoyed the chance to get a peek into the complex world of the LGBTQ community in Iran. But I generally found the book a little thin and a little rushed. I wanted more background on Sahar and Nasrin's lengthy past--and more reasons to understand Sahar's affection for Nasrin. During the bulk of the novel Sahar's emotions towards Nasrin tend more towards anger, frustration, and sorrow-understandable due to the events occurring in that time frame. But I would have found Sahar's fairly sudden and serious decision about the lengths she would go to be with Nasrin even more poignant and credible if I had seen a bit more of their relationship before disaster struck. Additionally, the jumps in time within the narrative sometimes felt jarring rather than effective. However, it's an important story with a important new voice and it definitely will-and should- find readers. (less)
As many other reviews have noted (especially the two I've 'liked' here on Goodreads), Gayle Forman's newest novel is much more than a European travel...moreAs many other reviews have noted (especially the two I've 'liked' here on Goodreads), Gayle Forman's newest novel is much more than a European travel adventure or a tale of whirlwind romance. It's a delightful novel chronicling a young woman's journey of self-discovery and coming of age.
Just One Day stands out among recent publications for a variety of reasons. First, it's a great example of books that might fall into this nebulous, new category of 'new adult fiction'--stories about young adults in strange transitional world after high school, sometimes in college and sometimes just beyond college. As many of my older high school students are fast approaching this next threshold in their lives, novels focusing on that transition are especially appealing to them.
Second, the characters (especially our protagonist Allyson) are interesting and complex; they show substantial but believable growth in the narrative. Allyson is, rightfully, the character that changes and develops more substantially here; she grows from a obedient (and somewhat passionless) daughter and student into a confident and adventurous young woman. In the process, she is alternatively prickly, vulnerable, depressed, self-absorbed, confused, brave, and unsure. The reader might not always like Allyson but I found myself loving and sympathizing with her the whole journey. I also enjoyed the great cast of supporting characters, especially Allyson's old and new friends. I especially enjoyed the fact that many of the supporting characters (especially adults like Allyson's parents) revealed their three dimensionality and humanity as the narrative progressed; as Allyson learned to understand herself better, she began to understand others (like her overbearing mother) more complexly.
Willem remains the most mysterious and least developed character int he novel--for good reason, I think. Allyson catches glimpses of his unhappiness or loneliness underneath his charming demeanor during their day together; during her search for him, she also begins to piece together more information about him as a real, flawed human (rather than a romantic idea). However, when the novel ends, Allyson and the reader are still mostly in the dark about Willem. Since this book is the first of a duo (with the second focusing on Willem's story), I felt intrigued rather than dissatisfied by this state of his character at the conclusion of the novel.
This third reason is very simple and somewhat biased on my part: I 'm a total sucker for a good 'rule-follwing girl goes to Europe and discovers her passions and true self' story. There's a reason this narrative is a bit of a trope in fiction. And in Just One Day, Forman uses this idea perfectly. On her first trip to Europe, Allyson meets the charming, free-spirited Willem and their one-day romance throws her whole, organized world off balance. While it appears that Allyson's ensuing depression and disinterest in her new college life might be due to a broken heart, she soon realizes that while she can't deny her strong emotions regarding Willem as a person, she's really in love with the way she felt and acted during their day together. While finding Willem again might be her more concrete motivation in the second half of the novel, Allyson is truly searching for a new, more adventurous and authentic version of herself. And I was thrilled to go on that journey with her!
Finally, who doesn't love a book promoting the magic of Shakespeare, the thrill of travel, and the power of following your interests to find your passion? I can't wait to read Willem's side of the story when the companion Just One Year comes out this fall! (less)