Monday, 2 December 2013

Book Review: Just One Year by Gayle Forman.

Product details:
Publisher: RHCP Digital.
ebook, 336 pages.
Release date: October 15th 2013.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Purchased.

Just One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read.

Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began....

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

Note: This is the companion novel to Just One Day by Gayle Forman. There are spoilers for Just One Day in this review. 

In this companion novel to the soul-searching Just One Day, readers may be surprised to discover that rather than resolving the ‘what happens next’ of cliffhanger ending that saw Allyson track down Willem in Amsterdam, Gayle Forman instead presses the rewind button on these star-crossed lovers, and takes us back to Paris, one year ago, where a hospitalized and very disoriented Willem de Ruiter is trying to piece together the events of the last twenty-four hours, and his memories of a girl he knows only as ‘Lulu.’

So, this isn’t a story of ‘what happens next?’

No. Not exactly. I’m not really sure why I thought the story of Just One Year would pick up with Willem and Allyson right where we left them in Amsterdam, but I did. For that reason, it took me a little while to warm to this one.  All the time I was reading Willem’s story of the year before, I was wondering when we’d flip back to that morning in Amsterdam. Admittedly, I’m pretty impatient. So, I found this one a little slow to start, and I think that maybe it’s because, after his initial frantic search for ‘Lulu’ in Paris, Willem doesn’t really know where to turn to next. It becomes increasingly clear that Willem’s nomadic lifestyle, presented to us as charmed and carefree in Just One Day, was borne not out of choice, but necessity. Willem doesn’t really have a home to go to. He doesn’t have a family, or at least not one that he’s close to. He has friends, and these friends know he’s never been the same since his father died some years previously. So when Willem tells his friends about ‘Lulu’ and the connection they shared, they make it their mission to find her for him. Because that’s what Willem needs, right? A girl to make him happy.

It soon becomes clear, though, that maybe any girl will do. And that if Miss Right isn’t available for Willem, then maybe Miss Right Now will do.  So, while Willem pines for Allyson and tries his best to track her down, he’s also conducting a half-hearted (on his part) relationship with a girl who is clearly besotted with him. Not a good move, Willem. I think a lot of readers might start to dislike Willem at this point. I figure he’s never been presented to us as an angel –rather as a guy who gets by on his good looks and charm – so I didn’t think this behavior was out of character for him. I rolled my eyes at his behavior, while at the same time thinking it very typical of something he would do. What did seem out of character for me was Willem’s fixation on Allyson. I mean, if you’ve read my review of Just One Day you’ll know that Allyson flat out annoyed me at times: she struck me as being really uptight, and I just didn’t see how a free spirit like Willem would feel so connected to her.  I don’t mean to make light of the time they spent together, but it’s pretty clear that Willem is no stranger to one night stands. He’s very much a love them and leave them kind of guy. I guess there was something extra special about Allyson: but I had a hard time buying it at times.

For all his faults, though, I actually liked Willem a lot. While I found the plot of this book slow moving at times, it was Willem that kept me entertained; he’s a very witty, intelligent, charming kind of guy.  Sure, sometimes his actions can be kind of irritating and it’s kind of annoying how he lands on his feet all of the time. I mean, opportunities just seem to fall into this guys lap (even a Bollywood movie!) But he’s a likeable guy all the same, and there is a lot more to him than meets the eye. He’s actually had a whole lot of trauma in his life; something that he hides behind is easy smile and laid-back persona. If Just One Day was the story of Allyson’s self-discovery and self-acceptance, then this book charts a similar journey for Willem.  In Just One Year, Willem is a boy looking for a girl, but he’s also a lost boy who is trying to face down his demons while finding himself and his place in the world.
But I still want to know what happened next. I mean, did they kiss?!?

Thing is, Willem and Allyson actually had a lot of near-misses during their year apart. Willem even journeys to Mexico to find Allyson, and all I could think was ‘oh, so near and yet so far!’ That said my recollection of Allyson’s timeline was hazy. I read these books almost a year apart and I think they are best read close together. I’m pretty sure I’d forgotten a lot of the small details of Just One Day by the time I read this one, but, I did remember Mexico.

Oh, and as for what happened next. Well, you’ll get there in the end. This book doesn’t offer instant gratification, rather it takes you on a journey of self-discovery that spans continents and will leave you with fond memories.  Just One Year is a good read, if a little slow moving at times, and in Willem de Ruiter it has a captivating leading male.  As with all of Forman’s books, this one is beautifully written from start to finish. Oh. And there’s an Adam Wilde reference in the text too. I loved that!


  1. Sheila DeChantal2 December 2013 at 04:19

    Just skimming. I have both of these books to read yet :)

  2. ChristinaBookAddict2 December 2013 at 13:24

    I just finished this book and felt the same way as you. There's no doubt that Forman is an excellent author and Willem is a fun protagonist, but I wasn't "wowed" by this book like I was hoping. I thought it was going to continue where the first book left off and the whole recap took me awhile to get used to as well. I liked learning more about Willem, but soooo wanted to know what exactly happened when she showed up at his door. Great review, Leanna!

  3. Jess Hearts Books2 December 2013 at 17:13

    I totally agree with what you said about Allyson's timeline being hazy - I really wish I read both books back to back or side by side because I kept feeling like I was missing something. I also would have liked more of a sequel than a companion novel especially because they spend so much time searching for one another. I'd have liked more of a pay off after all of that longing and searching.

  4. Yes! I kept on wishing that the book had just picked up from where the last one ended. Oh well...Still a good read but it did drag for me at times. I found the pace slow.

  5. I know! I'm sure I missed a lot of little details too. It's been almost a year since I read the first book.

  6. I never read Just One Day so I only skimmed your review but it sounds like it wasn't quite as good as the first but still her great writing. I find companions can be hit or miss sometimes. Or books in a new POV that only rehashes the same story in the boy's perspective. If not done right it can be kind of stale. Anyways, I definitely want to read this series it's right up my alley!

  7. Forman's writing is beautiful as always in this one, but I just wish she'd taken a different direction with this story. You'll know what I mean when you read Just One Day. :)


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