August 13, 2014

Just One Year + Just One Night - Gayle Forman

Just One Year book cover
Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #2
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: October 10, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

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. . . . (from Goodreads)

Back when I read Just One Day last year, my first ever Gayle Forman novel & my ever favorite, I had a lot of feelings. I identified with Allyson so closely, and her story just came to life in front of my eyes with every single word. It resonated so deeply with me, and re-reading it before Just One Year just reminded me of my deep, deep love for it.

I was a little hesitant about Just One Year, mostly because I wasn’t sure what I expected of Willem. Would he be the type to pine over the loss of Lulu after just one day spent together? Would he be the type to shrug off the gift of a day she’d given him and jump straight into the next bed he was invited into? But all my uncertainty about Just One Year was completely soothed by this beautiful companion novel. 

First, let’s get this important thing out of the way. When reading Just One Year, it’s important to recall that you are reading the story from Willem’s point of view. Honestly, I was guilty of sometimes still being in Allyson’s head and judging the things he did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, and I had to check myself every now and then to make sure I was giving him a fair chance to tell his side of things. 

The thing is, in spite of the one day that they might have shared, Allyson and Willem are two complex, unique individuals. So, it’s not particularly surprising that Willem’s experience in the year they were apart is so different from Allyson’s! While I never fully identified with Willem, there were aspects of his journey – the search, the constant loop between hope and disappointment, the longing for something he couldn’t name – that I did find easy to relate to. Plus, he visits so many places – Holland, Mexico, India – which absolutely awoke my wanderlust.

Willem is a boy who’s been through so much in such a short span of a lifetime, and I could understand how his personality had been shaped by his circumstances. He struggles with a sense of displacement, and a touch of grief. Plus, his inability to sustain a relationship or communicate properly with other people is definitely a bit sad. It’s easy for readers to see that Willem is adrift, constantly losing himself so that he can avoid addressing all these feelings and situations that are chasing after him. 

Meeting Allyson changes everything. Allyson sees Willem, recognizing the deepest, truest parts of who he is. It’s no surprise that he’s drawn to her immediately, and it’s totally believable too! In spite of the way he might have behaved (especially around other girls), he is clearly pining for Allyson. His pursuit of her, the lengths he goes to, the adventures he goes on, it’s a combination of heartbreak and hope. I just fell completely in love with their love story, especially through his eyes, and for that alone, Just One Year is definitely worth a read.

Clearly, I fell hard for Just One Year. It was refreshing to get into Willem’s head, really getting to see what he thinks and how he feels. He does things that made me angry, or made me sad. But honestly, he’s just a guy going through some growing pains in a journey to figure out what he wants, and what he believes in. We’re all going through similar journeys in our own lives, with pitfalls and triumphs, and so, his story resonated with me as Allyson’s did, but in a different way. Beautiful storytelling coupled with emotion made for a great tale; Just One Year is a wonderful companion novel, and I can highly recommend it.

Just One Night book cover
Just One Night by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #2.5
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Publication Date: May 29, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Since I continued the series way after Just One Year was released, I had the privilege of going straight into Just One Night after I’d finished. 

While I could have concocted my own fantasies of what happened to Willem and Allyson, this novella was the perfect sweet little “epilogue” of sorts to their story. With familiar faces, a promising future and romantic tension (Holy smokes, but that tension was off the charts! I was blushing and grinning and swooning like a crazy person.), Forman manages to give readers an extra present – and satisfy those of us who just loved Allyson and Willem and couldn’t get enough of them. 

Just One Night, while not necessary as the two companion novels can stand alone, was a welcome addition to this particular fan. If you’re craving more of Allyson, Willem and their undisputable connection, well, Forman definitely steps up to the plate and delivers just the right amount of story to whet your appetite and leave you sated.


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