About the Book

Book Protagonist: Allyson Healey
Publication Date: 2013
Genre: Action and Adventure, Teen and Young Adult

Themes and Analysis

Just One Day

By Gayle Forman

‘Just One Day’ is a novel that uses the language of pain, the feeling of insecurity, and the quest for identity to tell a story of love and fate.

The simplistic yet detailed thematic structure of ‘Just One Day’ makes it a novel that dissipates its story to the reader intuitively. Drawing upon themes that encompass young people’s lives, ‘Just One Day’ gives the reader a reason to keep reading.

Just One Day Themes and Analysis



Love stands as the primary theme of ‘Just One Day.’ Allyson fell in love with Willem even when she felt he might not want her. For her, love was an emotion she never actually felt as she got hurt by the people she liked. Willem comes into the scene, and she finds herself repeating the same thing that happened to her when she was younger. Willem eventually falls for her, and soon, their one day of adventure turns into a romantic getaway from Allyson’s stereotypical life. With her newly found love, Allyson basks in the euphoria and adventure. However, all that soon comes crashing as her love betrays her, leaving her to regret ever meeting him.

Pain and Heartbreak

‘Just One Day’ is a book partitioned into two parts. The first part of the novel tells the story of Allyson falling in love with Willem while on their adventure through Paris. The second part, however, is an inversion of the first. After she wakes up alone, her world comes tumbling down as the pain of never seeing Willem again drills into her thoughts. She becomes a shadow, filled with regret. The heartbreak she experiences because of Willem ruins her feelings, making her a ghost of the Lulu Willem knew.


Identity features as a crucial element in ‘Just One Day.’ All her life, Allyson had always struggled with her identity. She had a persona that made her rigid and equivocally introverted; this made her look like a grumpy girl not wanting to experience the fun of life. However, Willem comes into her life and opens her eyes to the joy of exploring the world.

Willem leaves her, and Allyson falls into a dark zone where she no longer knows herself. Allyson admitted to being in a cage that Willem took her out of. However, the moment he left, she felt herself getting thrown back into that cage and losing the part of herself she loved the most. Identity was crucial to Allyson defining herself in the novel. 

Melanie also felt the need to have an identity. For her, changing her hair color was something she did to make people take her seriously, and her addition of rings and more style to her body hinted at her newly found interest in girls.


‘Just One Day’ paid immense attention to the adventures of Allyson and Willem. The book uses adventure as a crucial tool in joining its protagonists together, and the setting sets the stage for affection and romance. Allyson could barely enjoy her tour around Europe but immediately after Willem comes into her life, she feels a new sense of adventure and exploration; this makes her open up her life to experience the joy of travel.

Adventure is a theme ‘Just One Day’ romanticizes. Melanie also had a keen sense of adventure. She let herself enjoy the beauty of traveling, and it made her experience freedom as she had never before.


Fate is undeniably a crucial element in ‘Just One Day.’ Initially thinking they will never see again, Allyson meets Willem on the train back to London. On the train, they get to talk and soon find out that they are great with each other. Willem tells Allyson how accidents made life spontaneous and fun. Fate is the backbone on which the story of ‘Just One Day’ thrives as it adds spontaneity to each conversation and action taken by the characters.

Analysis of Key Moments in Just One Day

  1. Allyson gets a gift of touring around Europe with the Teen Tours organization.
  2. On the last tour day, Allyson and Melanie get invited to watch Twelve Nights by Willem; they attend.
  3. Allyson and Melanie take a train to London and meet Willem again; He nicknames her Lulu.
  4. Willem takes Allyson to Paris, where they meet Celine.
  5. Willem and Allyson go on a boat ride with Jacques as captain.
  6. Allyson sees the Seine while on a bicycle ride with Willem.
  7. Allyson and Willem get lost intentionally.
  8. After Willem decides to save a group of girls from some men, Allyson tries to help. She ends up escaping with Willem but gets injured in the process.
  9. Allyson gets mad at Willem for trying to protect her. They find an art studio to spend the night in, where she ends up sleeping with him.
  10.  Allyson wakes up the next day only to discover Willem is gone.
  11.  Allyson goes to college.
  12.  Allyson and Melanie go to Mexico for the new year. On resuming, she changes her courses and ends up meeting Dee.
  13.  Allyson distances herself from Melanie.
  14.  Allyson makes up her mind to search for Willem.
  15.  Using clues from Paris, Allyson traces Willem to a show where he starred as the protagonist.
  16.  She traces him back to his home in the Netherlands. Allyson knocks on his door, and Willem opens it.
  17.  She tells him her real name.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Employing the first-person perspective of writing, ‘Just One Day’ throws its reader into the shoes of Allyson and makes them experience her emotions. The story acts like a periscope showing how Allyson changed from being happy and in love to being sad, depressed, and tired of her life.

As the novel features two separate parts, it employs the use of different tones along with its storyline. From the beginning, the book features a light tone that defines the relationship between Allyson and Willem. However, the second part of the novel uses a regressed writing style to show Allyson’s life after Willem abandoned her. The book uses metaphoric expression to relate the intensity of each pivotal part of Allyson’s life journey, from her loving Willem to her looking for him again.

Analysis of Symbols in Just One Day

Allyson’s Watch

Allyson’s watch symbolizes time and fate. She felt the burden of holding on to the watch because it was a present given to her by her mother but Willem took it from her, saying he freed her from the constraints of time, giving her the freedom to perceive time as she wished.


After the boat trip, Willem takes Allyson on a bicycle ride through the Seine. The bicycle symbolizes freedom without worries. While on the bicycle ride, Allyson admitted to feeling free and alive.


Is Just One Day a romance novel?

While it is a fiction novel, ‘Just One Day’ by Gayle Forman has elements synonymous with romance novels.

How did Willem and Allyson meet?

Allyson met Willem in England after she and Melanie got invited to watch Twelve Nights, a Shakespeare play that Willem starred in as an actor.

Did Willem love Allyson?

Willem fell for Allyson because she was different from other girls. However, after a day of adventure and a night of romance, he left her alone and scared.

Why did Willem not come looking for Allyson?

Willem did not search for Allyson because he knew nothing about her real identity; he nicknamed her Lulu.

Joshua Ehiosun
About Joshua Ehiosun
Joshua is an undying lover of literary works. With a keen sense of humor and passion for coining vague ideas into state-of-the-art worded content, he ensures he puts everything he's got into making his work stand out. With his expertise in writing, Joshua works to scrutinize pieces of literature.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap
Share to...