Louisa May Alcott may as well have been writing about me when she wrote "She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain!" But I am a staunch believer that there is no such thing.
I went to the library this past Friday to pick up two very specific graphic novels. But when I saw Just One Day on the shelf, I knew I had to read it. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the book, and I thought it was high time I found out why.
And now I completely understand.
Note: This will be one of my more spoilery reviews, though I don’t give away anything from the main part of the story. I am re-telling a portion of the beginning only.
Allyson Healey has always set out on the path that was laid in front of her. And when that path was chosen at a young age, it can be very hard to distinguish who set the course of the path. Are these Allyson’s hopes, dreams, and goals? Or are they her parents? Allyson has never questioned these things before – until a single day in Paris changes her life.
After she graduates high school, her parents send her on a tour of Europe with her best friend. Everything is planned and chaperoned, but Allyson never strays from the itinerary to join her friend Melanie and the others in the evenings while they party where the legal drinking age is only 18. Allyson is too reliable for that.
Then she meets Willem.Willem is an actor in a traveling troupe called Guerrilla Will – a group that performs Shakespeare on the streets (without permits) so that anyone and everyone can see them. And something about Willem – his voice or his eyes – causes Allyson to make her first adventurous decision on the trip. She and Melanie ditch the pre-planned showing of Hamlet with the group and watch Willem’s troupe perform Twelfth Night. It is unlike anything Allyson has seen before. She knows she caught his attention – he tossed a prop coin to her during the show – but afterwards, he disappeared.
Allyson and Melanie are scheduled to leave for London the next morning to spend their last few days in Europe with Mel’s family. But Allyson finds Willem on the train.
And Lulu is born (Willem thinks Allyson looks like Louise Brooks, so rather than ask her for her name, he calls her Lulu, short for Louise).
Willem discovers that Lulu didn’t get a chance to go to Paris on her trip, and he offers to take her for a single day. Something about being given a different persona causes Allyson to jump at the chance, something she would ordinarily never do. She begs Melanie to cover for her for the day and she goes with Willem.
For Just One Day.
I won’t tell you what happened that day. Or the year that followed it. But I will tell you that a single day altered the trajectory of Allyson’s life. It made her find herself – her true self.
It’s an emotional journey many of us find ourselves on. Which path do we take? Is this course mine or am I just trying to please someone else?It’s not easy. But it is definitely worth it.
Allyson’s journey was heartbreaking and beautiful and honestly, I didn’t want it to end. I could see myself in her.
"But still, that whole day, being with Willem, being Lulu, it made me realize that all my life I’ve been living in a small, square room, with no windows and no doors. And I was fine. I was happy, even. I thought. Then someone came along and showed me there was a door in the room. One that I’d never even seen before. Then he opened it for me. Held my hand as I walked through it. And for one perfect day, I was on the other side. I was somewhere else. Someone else."
That’s a revelation that everyone should have at some point. And then they need to find a way to keep that door open.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman has skyrocketed to the top of my favorites list. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Just One Year.