Written by Gayle Forman
Published October, 2013 by Dutton
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance, Travel
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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.
I found that Just One Year was a step up from its companion Just One Day. I slowly realised as the pages went by that I was becoming more and more invested in the story of Allyson and Willem, and that I truly wanted them to get their happy ending. Gayle Forman does an excellent job of pacing the two stories alongside each other as well. Though I knew where and how this one was going to end, Willem’s journey was one worth reading.
Continuing on from my recent read of Just One Day, I decided to uncover Willem’s side of the story in the companion novel, Just One Year. Though I had a few problems with its predecessor, I was curious to find out what had occurred to Willem that morning in Paris and ultimately what transpired for him in the year that Allyson desperately tried to track him down.
Unlike Allyson’s story in Just One Year, we don’t see ‘the day’ through Willem’s eyes in this one. We begin with him waking up in the hospital that morning and we set off from there. It was interesting to delve deeper into this character, since I wasn’t too fond of him in the last book. I found that I was able to connect with him a bit better this time around.
Willem is so… complicated. Even though the story was told from his point of view, I never had a clear handle on what he really wanted, and I doubt he knew himself. Girls seemed to THROW themselves at him at every turn, too. I mean, girls stripped naked on a whim or began undressing him. I clearly remember Allyson stating that he wasn’t typically good looking, so I can only chalk it up to his ‘charisma’ or whatever else he’s got going for him. He’s not exactly a ‘player’ (he doesn’t enjoy it but seems to go along with it merely for company and doesn’t make any promises) but he never says no, either.
I found Willem’s journey to be more eventful, as there wasn’t a huge boring block of nothing as with Allyson’s story. Willem travels around the world constantly, meeting new and exciting people and making decisions on the fly. The guy even stars in a Bollywood film! He, like Allyson, tries to track down the person that made ‘that day’ so special and it’s SO frustrating when they come so close to finding each other (such as on the beach in Cancun) but miss the opportunity unknowingly.
I felt that Willem did a LOT more growing than Allyson. He learns to deal with the death of his father, the issues with his mother, how to be a better friend, realising that his family still exists and that he doesn’t have to keep running away. He actually puts some roots down (such as the Shakespeare play and the renovation of the apartment in Amsterdam). His growing is constant, too, unlike Allyson’s.
Probably my favourite part of this book was seeing how all the dots connected with Just One Day. We get to see things we only heard talked about to Allyson such as Willem’s night with Celine after ‘the day’ and learn just who that mysterious girl was at the end who seemed to be ‘in love’ with Willem. I loved the idea that what I’d read previously was currently taking place as I read this one and that Gayle Forman made sure to tip us off. Also loved the mention of Adam from her previous series, If I Stay. A nice touch!
I could’ve honestly kept reading Willem’s story. I was hoping and praying that we’d get some more time to see his and Allyson’s reunion at the end… but alas, it left off on the same note. I guess I’m going to have to wait for the upcoming the novella ’Just One Night’, for that!
Recommended to: If you read the first book, I highly recommend reading this one. It will make the story come full circle and give you a deeper understanding of the characters! The story is much larger than you think!