Just One Year by Gayle Forman- Review

Posted April 6, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Books, Reviews / 11 Comments

Just One Year by Gayle Forman- ReviewJust One Year by Gayle Forman
Also by this author: I Was Here, Just One Day, Just One Night
Series: Just One Day #2
Also in this series: Just One Day, Just One Night
Published by Penguin on October 10th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Europe, Love & Romance, People & Places, Performing Arts, Social Issues, Theater, Young Adult
Pages: 352 •Format: HardcoverSource: Library

The compelling companion title to the much-lauded Just One Day follows Willem's transformative journey toward self-discovery and true love, by the author of If I Stay.Picking up where Just One Day ended, Just One Year tells Willem's side of the story. After spending an amazing day and night with Allyson in Paris that ends in separation, Willem and Allyson are both searching for one another. 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.* “The complexity of Willem’s character, the twisting plot, and far-flung settings (including the Netherlands, Mexico, and India) create an alluring story that pushes beyond the realm of star-crossed romance.”— Publishers Weekly starred review “As much a travelogue as it is a romance, this novel will appeal to fans of the movie Before Sunrise or Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes (HarperCollins, 2005).”—School Library Journal“As [Willem] becomes engaged personally and professionally, readers will find their interest quickening, right up to the satisfying denouement.”—Kirkus Reviews


My Review“Bravery was doing something dangerous without thinking. Courage was walking into danger, knowing full well the risks.”

I knew going in that this wasn’t a “sequel.”

And you should too. It’s not a spoiler, but a fact, and it will save you a LOT of frustration if you know that the synopsis is extremely misleading-it does not in fact “pick up” where Just One Day ended, rather it tells the story of the year Allyson spent in Just One Day from Willem’s perspective. Once you’ve accepted that you’re not going to get much in terms of closure, you can appreciate this book for what it is: A year’s journey of self discovery for a male protagonist set against a vibrant travel background.

Willem’s journey was different from Allison’s but still compelling.

Allyson’s journey really emotionally resonated with me because I could relate to the emotional roller coaster that is moving away for the first time to go to college, and struggling to find your independence from your parents. Willem’s journey was a little more subtle in its emotions, as Willem spends a lot of time avoiding, accepting, and eventually striving to change the aspects about himself and reputation he’s acquired, such as being flaky, overly flirty, and a womanizer. Readers are also thrust right into Willem’s family struggles without much of an explanation, and through the story will suss out the broken dynamics between Willem and Bram and Yael, his estranged parents who still haunt his thoughts and actions every day. The family aspect in this duology was fantastic, as multiple generations of family members play a role in both Willem and Allyson’s lives. Yet reading about Willem’s parents love story, and how he often feels like an unwanted footnote in it, was quietly powerful in a way that Allyson’s obnoxiously overbearing parents were not. Also, this book is rife with parallelism; Willem and Allison’s story draws almost eerie parallels to Bram and Yael’s, and by the end both relationships fit this multi-generational love story like a perfectly crafted puzzle.

I loved the travel aspect.

Willem travels a lot: to run away from his problems, to find Lulu, to avoid himself, and to find a home. The changing scenery had me flipping pages, curious to where he would visit next, but the people he met were truly what impressed me about this book. From a chance meeting with Shakespearean director Kate in the-middle-of-nowhere Mexico to befriending a Bollywood casting agent in India, the cast of characters Willem encounters feels authentic, not just like paper cut outs to fill the story. Each person he encounters also gives him some perspective on his feelings about Lulu and about himself: who he wants to be and who others expect him to be, until he eventually becomes tired of the charade of being Willem instead of just being him. Thus, Forman ties in the Shakespearean theme of pretending into both Allyson’s and Willem’s stories.

The “almost” moments were sweetly unbearable

It was excruciating at some points to see JUST HOW CLOSE Willem and Allyson came to meeting again, only to miss each other by the littlest of moments or the most menial lack of action. It was sort of the ultimate “Little Mermaid Syndrome” (you know, that scene from “Kiss the Girl” when they are THAT CLOSE TO KISSING and Ariel getting her voice back, and the eels interrupt them? But no matter how many times you watch you’re filled with hope that THIS ONE TIME it will happen? I refer to situations like those as “Little Mermaid Syndrome.”) Spoiler: I think the hardest one for me was when he finally got the contact info for the coordinator on Allison’s trip who would have known exactly who “Lulu” was, but decided it was just another dead end and didn’t follow up with her.

Overall: If you’re looking for a sequel, an “after,” this book will infuriate you. But if you’re looking for a well-written journey of self-discovery through an authentic male point of view, then Just One Year hits the mark. While not as emotionally evocative as Just One Day, it was really a unique experience to get to see the other side of such a powerful story, and the parallelism between two generations is done really well in this novel.

Verdict Canva- Enjoyed itjustonedayClick here to read my review of Just One Day.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge

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11 responses to “Just One Year by Gayle Forman- Review

  1. You really have me intrigued with this series, I’m definitely planning on picking it up now and giving Gayle Forman another shot. The themes sound really interesting, and I love the idea of seeing how the characters keep just missing each other. That would be frustrating in the best way!

    Great review as always. 🙂

  2. I agree! I didn’t love this one AS MUCH but I did really enjoy it. I think it was a cool way to tie their years together and see those “Little Mermaid” moments that you mentioned. THEY WERE SO CLOSE SO OFTEN!

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