I Didn’t Mean to Screw You Over

February 10, 2013 at 7:56pm

Surely Gayle Forman wasn’t planning to play with our emotions when she wrote Just One Day…right?
by Camille Cabugnason & Fiel Estrella

There was a time last month when around six friends—us included—were reading the same book at the same time. This book had been on our Waiting On lists for months, so naturally, we had to devour it immediately after it was made available. One of the perks of reading simultaneously with friends is that it’s easy to share thoughts and feelings with each other right away. You’re going through it together. All the swooning and laughter and marveling at great writing and setting-induced wanderlust and tears and (at times violent) reactions. And, alternately, more swooning and tears. That week, although we had varying degrees of progress on the book, we could all turn to each other every time said book broke our hearts and pulled them back together only to repeat the process. Like a book club, or, more accurately, a support group for those emotionally scarred by fiction, if you will. 

That book is Just One Day by Gayle Forman (who you might be familiar with for writing the equally heart-wrenching If I Stay and its oodles more romantic, incredibly hot little brother—okay, sequel, and I say “brother” because it’s male POV, although that makes Mia and Adam sound like siblings so let’s say BOYFRIEND—Where She Went). 


In Just One Day, the final night of all-American “good girl” Allyson Healey’s Europe tour group ends in England’s Stratford-upon-Avon, where they are to see Hamlet performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. However, Allyson and her best friend break off to see a street performance of Twelfth Night instead, in which 20-year-old Dutch actor-slash-vagabond Willem De Ruiter plays Sebastian and tosses a coin to Allyson. They are never to see each other again—until they do, on a train to London, no less. On impulse, Willem convinces Allyson—whom he has taken to calling Lulu after ’20s actress Louise Brooks—to go off the rails, forget the plan and have a day in Paris. Just one day. Just like that. And “Lulu” says yes. However, the day after an amazing, eventful time in Paris spent falling in love and possibly being in it (it makes sense in context), Allyson wakes up to find Willem gone. Now back in the States and in her first year of college, she spends the next months trying to find herself and reunite play-by-the-rules, trapped-in-life Allyson with the adventurous, free Lulu through Shakespeare and travel. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll come to find Willem again. Sort of like Before Sunrise meets Wanderlove meets, um, Europe.

In case that doesn’t convince you to read Just One Day, this is us trying harder. (It also doesn’t hurt that we just like discussing it and gushing over it and cursing it from time to time.) Here are our top eight reasons to read it:

  • Travel. The itinerary includes, and is perhaps not limited to, Stratford-upon-Avon, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Mexico, New York and, in the sequel (more on that later), India. India! The settings are all described beautifully and in detail.
  • Dee. In her Shakespeare Out Loud class, Allyson pairs up for assignments with Dee, a black guy with a loud fashion sense from the Bronx who, despite switching personalities like he would hats, stays the most loyal and true to Allyson throughout the whole novel. Oh, and he gives intelligent and interesting all-new meanings. Even if Willem didn’t exist and Allyson never went to Europe, and the book is just a recounting of her friendship with Dee, we’d read it for sure. But then Willem wouldn’t exist and Allyson would never have gone to Europe, so we’re glad as hell that he does and she did, anyway. 
  • Shakespeare. If you think Shakespeare + YA media = overdone, think again. Gayle Forman manages to elicit all-new appreciation for the celebrated playwright and his work, especially As You Like It. Screw Romeo and Juliet—Rosamund and Orlando are where it’s at.
  • Real characters. Let’s skip Ensemble Darkhorse Dee and focus on our heroine Allyson. Ms. Healey is something, she really is. She deserves a salute for actually being able to step out of her comfort zone and finding out what she truly loves to do, even if she did have more than a few kinks to work out and quite probably needed a bonk on the head once in a while. On the other hand, the mysterious, elusive, with-a-past-but-also-a-murky-future total playboy Willem will without a doubt steal everyone’s hearts—and, possibly, break them. That, we’ll have to see. Watch out for the rest of the people Allyson meets while traveling, especially Wren and Modou! It also helps a ton that this book is New Adult, which means that they’re not in high school anymore and there’s a lot more coming of age and Serious Business taking place. 
  • The lines, God damn it, the lines! Some of the dialogue and passages are so wonderfully written—and so tender and gut-wrenchingly honest—that you have to take a break just to reel from the raw emotions triggered by it all. 
  • The Reveal…s. Just trust us on this one. YOU WILL BE EXPERIENCING CHEST PAINS.
  • SWOON. The minute Willem and Allyson hop on that train to Paris, the chemistry starts building up and simmering to a slow boil that gets more urgent by the chapter. Whether they’re bantering while walking the streets or discussing pressing dating matters in coffee shops or going on boat rides with Danes or spending the night at an art squat, the tingles are there and they will never leave. And then the you get to the final chapters, and it’s a whole new level of things happening to your heart altogether.
  • Just One Year. As mentioned, the book has a sequel that comes out this Fall (thank God) and is narrated by Willem. Questions will be answered. More Just One Year feelings will commence. True love will prevail. Cliffhangers will not be an issue. Anymore.

In conclusion (AKA what we had to say, aside from a lot of cussing and sobbing and keysmashing): 

The fever still hasn’t faded. At first, I actually thought that this would just another novel. But reading it proved me wrong. Each time a new character enters a chapter, the more the story gets interesting. I’m quite sure that anyone who reads this novel will be enchanted and in love with every chapter. This is just an A+ book, because: a) Gayle Forman is just beyond perfection when it comes to writing novels, and b) this book actually made me cry. Literally. So I beg all of you, grab a copy of this book and discover Allyson’s story about her journey and adventures to self-discovery and true love.” -Camille

"Three words: Consider. Me. Stained.” -Fiel

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    If I did mean to screw you over, it was only with the best of intentions.
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