One Day



Romantic, mature story of friends who teeter toward love.

What parents need to know

Educational value

There are life lessons to be had throughout the book -- discover what you love to do, hone your inner compass. It's also instructive to learn how Emma writes her books and to see how her life informs them. You also witness the evolution of pop culture, since the book spans decades.

Positive messages

People grow and change over time, and if you're lucky, there will be others who will grow and change with you and support you throughout. It shows that love finds its own timing, and that it needs both participants to be mature and committed to find its footing. Also, patience clearly has its virtue, as evidenced here.

Positive role models

Emma and Dex are flawed individuals, but they're loyal to each other and care for one another. Dex especially feels the need to better himself when he's around Emma, who is always striving to find her place in the world -- an admirable trait. They are also honest with each other -- as honest as one can be when not all cards are laid out on the proverbial table -- and aren't afraid to say what needs to be heard but may not be altogether easy to hear.


References to teens duking it out -- shoving, screaming -- before a play begins. Couples bicker, sometimes cruelly.


Fairly open discussions about the trysts and hookups -- where, when, how they start -- the two main leads have throughout their lives (Dex more than Emma). One has an affair with someone married; the other will hook up with pretty much anyone. No graphic discussions about body parts, but fairly transparent references to sex acts and paraphernalia (leather straps).


A fairly robust smattering of swear words, including "goddamn," "pissed" and "f--k."


Dex is wealthy, and it's palpable from the clothes he wears -- there's some label-dropping -- where he lives, and references to how his home is decorated. There's a definite class difference to be discerned between him and Emma, who seems acutely aware of it.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Dex forms a fairly aggressive drinking habit, which sometimes lands him in hot water. He hooks up with near-strangers, makes drunken phone calls, and drowns his sorrows and stresses, to his detriment. Other characters use liquor for "liquid courage," too. References to smoking and drug use, but nothing excessive or serious. Frequent social drinking in pubs and restaurants, and of beer and heavier liquor (brandy, cocktails, etc).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this witty, affecting novel that checks into two friends one day each year is a frank look at how a friendship evolves over two decades, and how emotions -- affection, lust, love -- wax and wane over time. As characters go, the protagonists are fully realized, with foibles, quirks, and strengths that unfurl in realistic ways. Even the way they get to know each other feels authentic, too. Given how much ground it covers, there are plenty of adventures, including those of a sexual nature. (The descriptions don’t get explicit, but they do sometimes veer to the boorish, especially from Dex's point of view.) There's also swearing and some material infidelity, despair, and marital discord; these aspects may prove too mature for young teens who may be attracted to the book because of its movie incarnation starring the popular Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

What's the story?

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet on St. Swithin's Day, July 15, in England, the day of graduation from university. They spend the night talking and making out but, because Dex is off on a year-long travel adventure, decide to be friends. Each year on that same day, we check in with them and watch as they negotiate adulthood, external relationships, and their friendship, and figure out what they truly mean to each other and just how much. It's no pretty, easy journey, as emotions change and develop and boundaries are established and broken.

Is it any good?


It may not be literature for the ages, but ONE DAY is unequivocally moving and compelling. It stacks up against many others as a stellar, honest portrait of a genuine friendship -- marred by pitfalls and setbacks but worth every moment nonetheless. Reading it, you feel as if you're privy to a real-life relationship; you root for them and get frustrated with them. (Don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking to them.) It's funny, too, and finely tuned to the zeitgeist. The once-a-year format sometimes feels like a conceit, but also gives the narrative much-needed structure. Some readers may be disappointed with the surprise ending, but no matter what emotions it elicits, it’ll leave you thinking about the book for days afterward.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Emma and Dex are drawn to each other. What do they learn from each other?

  • Why does Emma put up with as much as she does from Dex? Should she?

  • Is the book a realistic portrayal of a long-term friendship? Why or why not?

Book details

Author:David Nicholls
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date:June 11, 2009
Number of pages:437

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byrhizobium July 24, 2013

so so good.i think every girl should watch

i just loved it. period.
Adult Written byhealthmomma February 16, 2012

A book for adults.

I am very surprised and disappointed to see this book rated "on" for kids as young as 15. I read it a few years ago and would not recommend it for anyone under 18 years old. It is about a young man and a young woman on their graduation day from university. They "hook-up" that night, and form a strong bond. The plot follows them on that same date for 20+ years as they go through different phases of life as well as relationships with other people. The themes are mature, including sexual promiscuity, alcohol abuse, and poor decision making. There are some unsettling plot twists.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written bylivinglifee December 28, 2013

Great film! Definitely worth watching for mature teenagers!

The movie is a very good interpretation of how two people could go through trials and tribulations that result in their love being strong throughout. There is a fair amount of sexual content, but nothing too graphic. It displays a positive message of showing how people change over time based on the things they go through. It is good to watch for mature teenagers, or depending on a teenager's maturity level. It is definitely meaningful, worth watching, and makes one question life for sure.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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