October 3, 2013

Review: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Just One Year (Just One Day #2)
Author: Gayle Forman
Release Date: October 10th, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC borrowed from Julie
Rating: A beautiful second side of a stunningly perfect coin.
The heartrending conclusion—from Willem’s POV—to the romantic duet of novels that began with Allyson’s story in Just One Day.

After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

At the end of Just One Day, Allyson's found her way back to Willem after a year of searching for him as well as searching for herself. Just One Year rewinds back to the day Allyson woke up alone but tells the story of what happened to Willem instead.

Let's break this down:

I kind of just want to stick in a bunch of gifs of people sighing and leave this review at that. But that's not super helpful since this is Gayle Forman and obviously we're all going to be left sighing. So instead I'll try to write words that make sense.

Before I try to start this thing, I want to make it very clear to everyone: this book does not get into what happens once Willem and Allyson are reunited. You get right up to the point where Allyson finds Willem at the end of Just One Day and the screen goes black. The symmetry is brilliant and I really do like that I get to decide what happens to Allyson and Willem, but if you're picking up Just One Year with hopes of a traditional, written out happy ending, you're not going to be super happy. (I, personally, would have enjoyed one more chapter, but all the pieces really are put into place and you can imagine what happens next even if you don't get to read it.)

Okay. That said, I loved, loved, loved this book. I think I loved Just One Day more because I could related to Allyson better (rule follower, drama, college...) but Willem's story... well I think there was more gut wrenching sadness in it. I think a lot of time when you meet a guy like Willem in a YA novel you assume he's confident and awesome, inside and out. I mean, yeah, we saw a couple of small chinks in his armor in Just One Day and he was probably deflecting a lot because he was hiding just as much, but you don't expect the suave, flirty foreigner to have the big issues.

And Willem really does have big issues. He travels the way he does because he's running. His family life is completely messed up and, the same way he thinks he mother can't commit to being in his life, Willem can't seem to commit to being in anyone else's life in return. But then he meets Lulu and before he can say goodbye to her, she slips out of his life due to lots of misunderstandings. A big question Willem has to ask himself in this book is why he's so hung up on Lulu. Is it because she left him and not the other way around or is it because he actually cares for her - the girl who promised she'd take care of him and actually did so?

But Willem's hang up over Lulu is really only a piece of this book. His issues with commitment also make it difficult for him to be a good, reliable friend. Not to mention, he  can't seem to stick with doing any one thing as a profession. He's afraid of saying "this is what I really want to do" and putting everything into it because if he does and it doesn't work out, what then? And then there are his issues with his mother - which feels like the root of a lot of Willem's problems. I actually really enjoy the parts of this story that feature Yael. The relationship between Willem and his mother is so complex and believable that I almost can't believe this isn't someone's actual journal detailing a year of heartbreaking events.

Now, I feel like at this point of the review a lot of people are thinking: "Wow. Gaby just went through a couple major components of this book. This is kind of like a spoiler." To that I say: 1. I hope you don't think I actually spoiled this book for you and 2. even if you think I did, I really didn't. This isn't the kind of book where I tell you the twist and everything is spoiled. We actually all know how this book ends because we saw it happen at the end of Just One Day. The thing about Gayle Forman books in general is that the series of events are wonderful and tragic and important, but less important than the emotional journey of the characters. And, as always, the pure, honest emotion of this book is enough to leave me sighing for days.

Which is why I wanted this whole review to be a series of sighing gifs. It's really the only way to explain how realistically emotional this book is. I really do think that my absolute favorite part of this series is how human Allyson and Willem are. Nothing comes easy to either protagonist and as much as you want to push them in the right direction and never let a bad thing happen to them ever again, you know the events in these books are exactly what need to happen to get them where they need to be. (Which, for the record, is back together again, but in a better headspace to be back together again.)

Oh, also, this book is written in this beautifully fluid prose. It's almost dreamy, how soothing and amazing it is. But it's definitely not the kind of soothing that puts you to sleep. I actually had to force myself to put this one down so I could go to sleep at 3am. And then I woke up, ignored everything and promptly finished.

The long and short of it?

Plot: The ending is what you know it'll be after reading Just One Day but it's really all about the journey and Willem's story honestly does not disappoint.
World Building: Can I travel this much? Not for the reasons Willem likes to travel so much, but still.
Character Development: So many character have such compelling journeys in this book. Willem obviously takes the cake, but seeing how Yael changes throughout the story in relation to her son is also amazing. So basically, lots of amazing.
Prose: Soothing, dreamy, fluid... completely addictive.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you love contemporary books with serious depth, this is the series (don't forget to start with Just One Day!) for you. I'd also recommend both books in this series to people who love to travel. You might want to get up and go somewhere once you're done reading, but it's worth it.

I'm going to sit here and sigh over this one for a little bit longer. Feel free to leave me a comment while I move past my unending love for this series and all things Gayle Forman.


  1. Having read ( and adored) If I Stay/Where She Went, I preordered Just One Day, and it has sat on my shelf patient waiting for the release of Just One Year, so that I can read them back to back. Now all I need is the second book to arrive and a quiet weekend for my Forman Fest!
    Caroline x
    Ps.Thank you for the warning about the HEA

  2. I wonder what happened the whole book.... I'm so happy to finally see both sides of the story. These books give a whole new meaning to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It's all very interesting. Once again, I couldn't put the book down!

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