Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Published: October 10, 2013 by Dutton Children's (Penguin)
Source: ARC received from publisher
The heartrending conclusion—from Willem’s POV—to the romantic duet of novels that began with Allyson’s story in Just One Day
After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself. [goodreads]
I'm not quite sure where to begin this review, simply because my thoughts are a jumbled mess, swirling around inside my head. This novel crushed me, in the most beautiful way possible. After reading Just One Day, its companion novel, I knew this follow up would consume me. But I had no idea it would affect me the way it has. Literature has a way of creeping up on you, digging a hole inside your soul, and staying there for as long as it likes. Gayle Forman's words are deep and meaningful, but never in a preachy way. She delivers lines that are attributed to the story, yet so thought provoking for the reader. As if I couldn't adore her storytelling any more, she's blown me away by Willem's story in Just One Year.
As we know from the previous novel, in just a day's time Allyson and Willem meet, sending them both on a whirlwind adventure full of romance and self discovery in Paris. But after that one day, they're separated and left with just memories of something that plays on their thoughts, almost as if they dreamed the whole thing up. Since we've already followed Allyson's journey, now it's time to see what Willem has been doing in that year's time since their meeting and unforgettable day in Paris.
He begins the story as a young man, who's on the run -- always finding that next adventure, hopping from train to train, airplane to boat, whatever means possible to land him on a path to where ever it may take him. But in the forefront of his mind is always Lulu (the only name he was given, or rather given to Allyson, during that magical day). She surrounds his memories, filling his mind with the what-could-have-been's, causing him to question his next move. In a series of events, Willem finds himself back home in Amsterdam, picking through the pieces of a life he was so desperate to flee, but finding peace among family and friends.
I really gravitated towards Willem's character. With his constant traveling, it's as though he's in search of something he lost, but ultimately he realizes the things that matter most are never truly lost -- they're always where they can be found. There's an honest interpretation of how he spent his year, and I really appreciated that. The almost moments of when I thought he'd find Allyson pulled at my heart. It's crazy how one person can leave such an astounding impression on you that will forever change the way you see life. I knew Willem would find his purpose, and what a beautiful journey he took us on in order to seek his double happiness.