Friday, 3 February 2017

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Publication date: 10th October 2013
Published by: Dutton Children's
Genre: Contemporary Romance (YA)

Publisher's synopsis
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.

Caution - this review contains spoilers of the first book Just One Day.

My Review 
Just One Year is not so much a sequel to, but rather the opposite reflection of Just One Day.  The latter was Allyson's story about meeting and falling for Willem while on vacation in Europe. We know from the first book that after a magical day together, Willem disappeared and Allyson had no idea why.  Did he abandon her?  Or did she in her anxiety of waking up the next morning and finding him gone, give up on and abandon him?  Just One Year is Willem's story. It tells us what really happened. 

I enjoyed this novel as much as the first one and for the same reasons.  

For me the best parts were when Willem is on his travels - in Mexico and India, his experiences in those places and his interactions with the people he met on the way.  We get an insight into his character: we learn about his upbringing and this offers some understanding of his wander lust.  

While reading the first book, I found myself speculating about him and this companion novel revealed that some of what I came up with was correct, while offering revelations where I got things wrong.  I quite liked that about the about the book. 

These are both coming-of-age stories.  Where Just One Day is about self-discovery and the pursuit of true love, Just One Year tackles multiple themes, including loneliness, grief, falling in love for the first time and the pursuit of true love.  Gayle Forman manages to cover these themes without sentimentality.  They are both fantastic books that I can't recommend highly enough.  

There is a 3rd novella entitled Just One Night, which I have also read.  I wasn't so keen on that one.  I would say this book is for readers who do not like stories that have an open ending: stories where the conclusion is to some extent left to the reader's own imagination.  Just One Night attempts to tied things up nicely.  It did not work so well for me and I found it somewhat indulgent, to be honest.  It is very tempting to get the novella if you enjoyed the novels because you want to experience more of these very likeable characters.  But, personally, I was left wishing I hadn't.

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