JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman

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Allyson’s parents sent her on the “Teen Tours!” whirlwind trip to Europe as a high school graduation gift.  They insisted that the experience would broaden her horizons and prepare her for her promising future career as a doctor.  But for Allyson, the trip is a bust.  She doesn’t enjoy traveling, and her childhood best friend Melanie, traveling with her, has “reinvented” herself in preparation for college, and Allyson isn’t sure she likes the new “Mel.”  But her prospects change drastically when Allyson meets Willem on the streets of Stratford-on-Avon.  There is something about the unconventional, amateur Shakespearean actor that intrigues her.  And when he invites her to play hooky in Paris for a day, she throws away her old identity as straight-laced Allyson, and begins the adventure of a lifetime.

I read a review recommending this book to people who like Shakespeare and teen fiction, but when I read the tagline on the back of the book, I almost didn’t read it (“She went looking for him and along the way she found herself…”—ugh!).  But I’m glad I did read it, because the tagline hardly does this good book justice.  The book is definitely about “finding yourself.”  Most of the characters are playing with their identities—which is nicely paralleled with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and As You Like It.  But in the context of starting college and struggling to build new friendships and relationships, I did not find Just One Day obnoxious the way I do most middle-aged-woman-goes-to-Europe-to-find-herself books.  In fact, it reminded me of John Green’s identity-focused YA novels.  The plot was moved forward by action; Allyson didn’t spend too much time ruminating without doing anything else—and she has a great sense of humor.  There were also many relationships in the book (friends, family) in addition to the romance focal point that helped flesh out Allyson’s character.  I would definitely recommend this book to teens and college students (or grown-ups who enjoy teen lit) who like realistic fiction and/or romance.  I’m looking forward to the sequel!

If you liked Just One Day, you might like Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

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