Title: Just One Year (Just One Day, #2)
Author: Gayle Forman
Rating: 5 Stars
Release Date: October 10th, 2013
I melted into Just One Year.In January, I was impressed by Forman’s Just One Day, but not nearly as much as I was impressed by her If I Stay/Where She Went duology. Just One Year, however, ties together these two novels so seamlessly that I find myself unable to choose which duology I love more. And Forman? Forman hits all the rights notes with this novel; travel, Shakespeare, unflinchingly honest characterizations, familial relationships – and my favorite – love that’s meant-to-be.
Just One Year picks up in
, from the moment when Allyson and Willem’s stories diverge. While we know what Allyson went through in her separation from Willem, we now are privy to the inner workings of Willem’s mind. And, gosh, what a fascinating place it is. For me, one of the greatest strengths of this novel is the stark parallels, but also the shocking differences, between both these narratives. For one, many of the locations are similar. In fact, the near-misses between these two will make you cry out in frustration – more than once! – but they only add to the steady build-up of tension to the tale. Paris
A slightly more subtle similarity, however, is the thread of confusion that connects Allyson and Willem’s journey. In Just One Day, Allyson wakes up to find herself alone in a foreign country. Yet, she finds herself more puzzled by what happened to her companion – why did he abandon her? Why could he see aspects of her true personality that the others around her could not? And what, most importantly, is she to do with her life now that that colorful, whirlwind day is behind her and bland, boring days lie ahead? Forman answers these questions with aplomb, creating a New Adult novel that realistically explores the journey of college and, even better, the journey of finding yourself in a seemingly normal world. As we will find out, though, Willem undergoes a similar state of mind. After all, how is he to find Allyson without even knowing her real name? After traveling for years and meeting dozens of people, why is it that she disarms him and sees into his soul with her honesty? And how is he ever going to return to the normalcy of his on-the-road life, now that he knows what it’s like to be with someone who genuinely cares; someone who has forced him to care, for the first time in three years?
It was evident, even from Just One Day, that there was far more to Willem than what met the eye. And there is. Bram, Willem’s father, passed away three years ago and ever since, Willem has barely spoken to his mother, Yael. Bram and Yael’s love story is legendary, encompassing their lives in such a way that Willem has always felt the odd one out. And now, left with the parent who is nothing like him, Willem has resorted to the one thing he knows how to do: escape. Instead of making any conscious decisions, Willem has left his life up to fate, going where the wind blows him, sleeping with the girls who throw themselves at him, and spending time with the people who care to spend time with him. Forman’s portrayal of Willem is unapologetically raw, giving us the glimpses into the real man beneath the veneer of charm and wisdom. Moreover, Willem is slow – and hesitant – to acknowledge the full impact of his day spent with Allyson. Although he knows, in his gut, that he is changed, it takes awhile for him to truly accept this; for him to accept that he wants more from his life but meaningless travel, meaningless relationships, and random “accidents.” While, admittedly, this can become frustrating, I love that it’s so typically Willem. We don’t expect his journey to be nearly as straight-forward as Allyson’s and it isn’t, but it’s just as – if not more – rewarding.
Furthermore, Forman explores the concept of will vs. fate so beautifully, weaving it into the storyline and subtly bringing it up every-so-often. It’s an integral part of Willem’s growth, but it’s also a theme of these two novels as a whole, so I love how they intersect. Moreover, I adore the emphasis on family in this novel, especially as Forman never wastes time with meaningless family trees or background information. Instead, she throws us fully into Willem’s head, leaving us to grasp at the straws of his connections to his remaining family members and their impact on his life. Yael, Willem’s mother who resides in
, is a particular favorite of mine. Not only is their relationship messy and real, full of the uncomfortable facts of life we’d rather push under a rug, but Forman expertly reveals the layers of upbringing that go into making a parent-child relationship. Yael’s childhood has a direct impact on Willem’s own childhood as well and so much of Willem’s understanding of his mother comes from his understanding of her past. Yet, the best aspect of their relationship is the fact that, ultimately, Willem comes to realize that the parent he thought he was not so similar to may actually have more in common with him than he thought. And I love this; I love that Willem and Yael have moved on from their grief, but still find ways to move on from it together. It isn’t a perfectly patched-up relationship, but it’s the small, baby steps that go a long way. India
And yet, when you strip away the travel, the family, the self-discovery, at its heart, Just One Year is a love story. We find Willem’s thoughts littered with Lulu; memories, trinkets, thoughts, words, dialogue. And, despite the fact that Lulu lives in Willem’s thoughts for the majority of this novel, Forman convinces us that what they share is more than just a passing fancy; it’s true love. As Willem himself slowly grows to seize his life with his own hands, he too, like Allyson, acknowledges that their day spent together changed him for the better. And while there is the admission that both Willem and Allyson will be fine alone, there is also the truth that they will be remarkable together. Bram and Yael’s love story, which draws heavy parallels between that of Willem and Allyson’s, serves to strengthen our belief in the rightness of this couple. Moreover, what Forman really excels at conveying is that a relationship is build upon the willingness of both people to make it work. It doesn’t matter what hurdles are thrown their way; if they’re convinced that they are meant to be together, no matter what, they will stay together, no matter what. It is the growth of that mindset, then, that is more important than the arc of any relationship. It is for this reason that I love the way Forman has chosen to end this novel. If you read closely enough, if you understand fully enough, you just know what’s really being said in all those undertones. And those are the endings that make me gasp in awe every time.
Needless to say, fans of Forman’s work will be flocking to buy this the day it releases. It needs no further endorsement from me or any other reviewer – the name of Gayle Forman is enough to ensure that it delivers and lives up to expectations. And yet, I was still surprised when I read this novel. While Mia and Allyson are both very different heroines, they do share subtle similarities in their lifestyle. Adam and Willem, however, are as different as can be and I love that I love these two distinct male narratives for different reasons. Despite both being darkly flawed beings, Adam and Willem find ways to cope with their lives and move on. And, best of all, I love that both these duologies are of a different nature. Where She Went is more sequel than companion novel, whereas Just One Year relies on the dates, time periods, and locations of Just One Day to be fully experienced at its raw potential. Perhaps best of all, though, Shakespeare remains the underlying inspiration, connecting together the books and giving rise to the tones they convey. With the magic she has worked up, Forman has ensured one thing: you will close her novel stained.