Book Title/Author: Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Publisher/Year: Dutton Juvenile – October 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: It’s a duology and Just One Day is book 1!
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Just One Year starts out with Willem in the hospital and chronicles the next year after his infamous day with Allyson as he longs for her but also spends the year trying to find himself and what he is about. Yep, that’s all I’m giving you on what this book is about. Be prepared for great character growth and some special relationships that don’t even have to do with Allyson.
Honestly…how can I ever review a Gayle Forman book? The thought of it makes my palms sweaty and my stomach a little queasy because my words just feel paltry and unable to even give a glimpse of how special her books are. There is just something about her novels that always resonate in the depths of me that only a very, very select few can do consistently. Just One Year undoubtedly raised the bar of what I come to expect from companion novels — and really just books in general.
Right off the bat I was eager to dive into Just One Year. We KNOW where Just One Day leaves off (!!!) so I was chomping at the bit to see what Willem had been up to for that year and to make our way to the point in which Just One Day ends. On one hand I found myself wanting to fly through the book to get to THE PART but on the other hand I just felt deep down that I wanted to give Willem the proper time and attention and enjoy his journey because really we don’t KNOW Willem all that well from Just One Day and we all have a million questions about what happened to him.
Just One Year was just so COMPLETE for me. I felt like Willem was just this character that I knew but I didn’t really KNOW and experiencing his story gave so much more depth to Just One Day. It complemented it so perfectly without RELYING on it if that makes sense. Willem’s story is not what we see in Just One Day — it’s larger than that. The events of Just One Day are only a sliver of his life and I was so pleased at the masterful way Willem came to life and was given even more depth.
His story is heartbreaking and also heartwarming and I found myself relating to Willem in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Willem’s growth was so perfect and I just absolutely fell in love with him. I LOVED that Gayle Forman made him SO REAL. Sure, he thinks about Lulu/Allyson but he’s not sitting there vowing celibacy or putting his life on hold until he finds her. His life moves on but he can’t stop shaking that feeling of having changed and contemplating the person who planted that seed of change and he doesn’t know what to do with that. I loved watching him grapple with all of it but my heart simultaneously felt weighty right along with his broken self. God, Gayle, how do you DO that? As much as I wanted him to obviously emerge like a rom com hero and not stop at anything to find her, I really wanted him to find himself and I’m so grateful for Gayle staying true to her characters and giving me a story that isn’t just hinged on a romance but on a real person with a real story and a real journey.
The term “waited with bated breath” was never so apt a description until I read Just One Year. Gayle so perfectly takes us on Willem’s journey (the travel bug in you will salivate) and simultaneously has you just waiting for the moment when they will be reunited. I found myself holding my breath thinking THIS COULD BE THE MOMENT a few times. There are some parallels of things that show up in both books and I was talking to my friend Ginger about how I kind of wished I reread JOD right before so I could have them perfectly aligned in my mind but she made me think about how FUN it was to be guessing and NOT knowing.
I know I’ll get asked if I liked Just One Day or Just One Year more and that’s impossible to say because they resonated with me for different reasons and took me on special journeys that truly did impact me. I can only say that I think at the time when I read Just One Day it impacted me enough to take some action in my life — it found me when I needed it.
Just One Year was flawless for me — everything I could have hoped for and more. Had all the amazing characteristics of a Gayle Forman novel — superb writing, thought provoking, depth in story & character development, heart and soul — and I loved Willem’s physical journey as well as his journey to find happiness, love (read: not just romance) and ultimately himself. If you are looking for a novel that truly doesn’t hinge itself on a romance, even though we know Allyson & Willem’s one day together was special & life altering, this will be so satisfying for you as it was for me. I don’t reread often but Just One Day and Just One Year are going to be stories I need to revisit again and again. I feel like I can never show enough gratitude to Gayle Forman for Just One Day and Just One Year — a most perfect duology that truly did impact me enough to actually change things about my life.
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