He’s Just Not That Into You

The novel Just One Day provides a surprising amount of thoughtfulness cloaked in a cheesy love story.


photo by Kristen Kinzler

The front of Just One Day shows exactly why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Kristen Kinzler, Junior Class Editor

I picked up Just One Day by Gayle Forman, noting the couple holding hands on the cover, and skimming over the whimsical description, expecting a relaxing, probably overdone, trivial teenage romance. Sure, I didn’t think it would be the most profound piece of literature — I just found myself in the mood for a fluffy, fun story.

So, as you can imagine, I was shocked when the romance failed in the first quarter of the book, and the seemingly over-embellished story became one that provided immense insight and contemplation.

The novel centers around a recent high school graduate named Allyson Healey who, while on a summer trip abroad, has an adventure in Paris with a complete stranger she met just hours before. It’s the stuff of fairytales. They have a great evening and begin to fall in love, but in the morning, Allyson wakes up completely alone, abandoned, and lost in a country far from home. 

Her Prince Charming ditched her.

If a teenage girl can turn a fairy-tale-gone-wrong into a positive period of improvement, maybe the rest of us do stand a chance. ”

I know that may sound like the complete plot of an awful romantic comedy, but, again, that’s only the beginning.

The rest of the story takes place months later when Allyson goes home and begins college, where she can’t seem to overcome the feeling that her old life doesn’t fit her anymore. The plans she had laid out, the ideas of her bright future, feel wrong. 

That sensation forces her to examine her life and realize she wants more. Those exhilarating and terrifying twenty-four hours in Paris changed her outlook on who she could be.

The best part is Allyson does not necessarily want to find the mysterious guy who left her. She just longs to rediscover the person she was that evening– bold, spontaneous, happy. Surprisingly, the perceived love interest in the novel isn’t the catalyst for that change. She is.

So, a story that I originally thought was going to be a cheesy love story turns into one about a very relatable girl finding herself. 

Unfortunately, the idea that a young girl can transform herself without falling in love is very under-represented in literature. It’s part of what makes this story so powerful. It’s a breath of fresh air among young adult fiction books that are typically filled to the brim with protagonists who are only capable of self-growth because of romantic love.

Rarely do books show the full impact that friendships and parental relationships have on personal development– something this novel also does exceptionally well. As Allyson is trying to redefine her life, she also has to handle growing apart from her best friend and disagreeing with her overbearing mother.

It’s ironic, because, after its Disney movie theatrics of a beginning, the rest of the novel feels like an authentic representation of the gritty, ugly, but incredibly honest aspects of life that truly change us. It’s written in a way that is entertaining, hopeful, and impeccably genuine.

At the very least, the novel serves as a reminder that you don’t need to wait around for an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. I mean, if a teenage girl can turn a fairy-tale-gone-wrong into a positive period of improvement, maybe the rest of us do stand a chance. 

And I think that’s an important lesson for just about anyone at just about any point in their life.