Book Review: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

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.

3 cupcakes

“It was like she gave me her whole self, and somehow as a result, I gave her more of myself than I ever realized there was to give. But then she was gone. And only after I’d been filled up by her, by that day, did I understand how empty I really was.”

I’m starting to think that Gayle Forman’s duologies just aren’t for me. I really enjoyed If I Stay but just couldn’t get into Where She Went, and now I find myself disappointed with Just One Yeardespite having loved Just One Day.

Instead of picking up immediately after Just One Day, as I had hoped, Just One Year is the story of what happened to Willem during the year that he and Allyson were apart. I appreciated the fact that Willem’s backstory was elaborated upon, but the plot’s slow pace failed to keep my interest – to the point where I could easily walk away from the book for days on end and not be plagued with curiosity over what happens next.

For the majority of the book, I was not a fan of Willem. Instead of the charismatic, flirty actor/experienced traveler that we saw glimpses of in Just One Day, Willem was not the mysterious, strong, caring individual that I expected; instead, he’s the kind of man who runs away from all of his problems. I liked that he was willing to make an effort to find Allyson, but the extent of his fixation over her (constant comments about how he can’t forget about her and how much he likes her) wasn’t very convincing or believable.

Just One Year‘s saving grace is Gayle Forman’s beautiful writing. The pages of my ARC are filled with sticky notes lining all of her beautiful and deep quotes that burrowed their way into my mind and my heart.

Overall, Just One Year didn’t add anything to Allyson’s story and, as a result, it failed to live up to my expectations.

I received an ARC from Razorbill Canada in exchange for an honest review.


Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

I went into Just One Day expecting an adorable, fluffy romance for the majority of the book, culminating in a heartbreaking ending. And while elements of that expectation held true, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more there was to the story.

The romance between Allyson and Willem was sweet but short-lived. I don’t exactly believe in love at first sight, so it was initially difficult for me to believe the depth of the feelings that Allyson had for Willem – especially after knowing him for just one day. As the story progressed, however, Allyson and I both came to realize that her search for Willem was less about him and more about the person that he brought out in her.

At its core, Just One Day is about a journey to self-identity and independence. As an only child, Alyson has grown up following her controlling parent’s expectations and plans for her. An impromptu trip to Paris with Willem causes her to reinvent herself as “Lulu,” a girl who is less reserved and more adventurous, and who makes going back to being just Allyson incredibly difficult.

What I loved the most about Just One Day is that it takes a while for Allyson to find herself. We see a former honours student struggling in her post-secondary courses, a girl whose dreams don’t line up with her parents’ anymore, and someone who is losing touch with old friends while also struggling to make new ones. This experience captures the transition from high school to college perfectly: the friends that you make and the experiences that you have in these years help shape the person you are and the person you are to become.

Overall, Just One Day was a beautiful journey of self-discovery that made me want to travel to Paris with a copy of Just One Year as soon as I finished.