Allyson Healey begins the upending of her planned, predictable life in Just One Day. What can happen during 24 hours in Paris? Maybe the better question is: What can’t?
FYI: I picked up Just One Day after spending three days in London,where the book begins. Even though I had triple the time Allyson did in that great city, nothing remotely romantic* happened. I am slightly miffed at the universe for this slight.
Just One Day and Just One Year are an incredibly compelling duo, fast and easy to read. On the surface, they feed the beautiful idea that in one moment, everything can change. Say yes, not no. Be free and experience life. All of those Instagram worthy quotes that sound wonderful but can be so difficult in practice when confronted with the unwieldiness of life.
While I was going into this expecting fun, escapist reads, the duo pleasantly surprised me by showing pieces of the journey to knowing oneself. It’s certainly a lifelong process and something far too complicated to be completely captured in a few hundred pages, but it was nice to walk along with Alyson and Willem, the romantic interest, for a little while.
There are two things I would have liked to have known before jumping into these books.
- Just One Day does not actually take place over the course of one day. I expected this because of the title and the fact that Gayle Forman’s If I Stay does happen over the course of twenty-four hours. The significance of both books’ titles are metaphorical.
- Just One Year does not actually continue the timeline. Instead, it is the same story, but from Willem’s perspective. It’s fascinating and definitely enriches the reading experience, but it won’t necessarily satisfy the But What Happened?! feelings that might occur after finishing the books.
I never read novellas, but Just One Night by Gayle Forman is something I’ll be picking up for a little more closure. Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner has a great review of the final part of Allyson and Willem’s lives we get a glimpse into.
I left Just One Day and Just One Year on a book trade bookshelf in a hostel in Dublin. Maybe the books’ next owner will have more romantic inclinations. I’d kind of like to think so.
*Looking back, this was probably for the best.
The Young Elites is the origin story of a villain. It is set in an alternate fantasy version of Renaissance Italy. After the equivalent of the Black Death sweeps through the world, a few survivors come out of the illness with supernatural powers. The [story of the] main character, Adelina, chronicles her downfall into darkness (from Marie Lu’s tumblr).
Raised eyebrows was my response when hearing that The Young Elites was the story of a villain. After all, I like to root for my heroes to slay the villain from the beginning of the story to the end.
On the other hand, I’m fascinated by the complexity of humanity. The ferocity we use to protect ourselves, and sometimes those we love.
Protecting herself is in part, if not in entirety, what Adelina is trying to do. From her overbearing father who wants rid of her. The government who wants to kill her. The people who want to use her. From herself.
The story’s multiple viewpoints reveal what drives many of the characters, showing that the line between strong leadership and deceitful manipulation can be too easily crossed.
A harrowing quote: I will find you all. I will use everything in my power to save your souls. I was born to destroy you (p 119).
Though I found the writing awkward in a handful of places, with phrases that sounded thoroughly too modern for a “fantasy version of Renaissance Italy,” the the complicated characters and storyline made it a worthwhile read. Twisted love, a yearning to be accepted, and a power too strong to control collide in Adelina.
As much as I love stories of redemption, I’m unsure if The Young Elites will ultimately be one of them. Regardless, I can’t wait to find out a bit more in The Rose Society, The Young Elites #2.
If I Stay teaches patience to its readers. Knowing the pivotal plot point before even opening the book then spending the next two hundred pages waiting for the resolution would be enough to try a saint’s patience if it were not for Gayle Forman’s writing. The frequent use of flashbacks takes readers from the anxiety of wondering what will happen to complete immersion of a simpler time. Of Labor Day cookouts, Julliard auditions, and deciding who to be for Halloween.
Of heart to heart talks with Mom (who is gone). Singing with Dad (who is gone). Playing with Teddy (who might be gone).
And once again you’re jolted back to present reality, where Mia must decide to go or fight to stay.
Forman’s characters are so real; in fact, they’re people I’ve known, in a small way. I have family with Adam’s need to occasionally make a Big Production. A parent who I can tell nearly anything. Friends who I could call on night or day if I need help. I’ve received kindness at the hands of strangers that I’ll never forget, just like Mia.
The familiarity of the people in the novel is the only thing I could relate to, while Mia decides. It anchors the novel, while the grandness of Mia’s situation spirals out of control.
If I Stay takes place in less than a few days’ time, but in its span, I learned who Mia was, the wonderful and challenging life she had Before, and the grief that would overtake her like nothing else… if she stayed.