As I read Gayle Forman’s Just One Year, the companion to Just One Day I could not get this one quote from The Perks Of Being A Wallflower out of my head – “We accept the love we think we deserve.” That my friends, is what Just One Year is all about. It’s about Willem De Ruiter and the different types of love that come into his life and the myriad forms they take – familial love, the love of a best friend, and of course once in a lifetime romantic love. Like Just One Day, Just One Year is a travel book and you could say that it’s all about the transformative power of a journey. It’s a book that spans continents. You probably lost yourself in Allyson’s journey which means that you’ll end up losing yourself in these pages as well. Count on it and trust when you get to the end where everything comes together so perfectly, you’ll relish every word chosen and every page read in Just One Year. This book will stain you.
Willem wakes up in a strange place, in a lot of pain with no memory of what happened. Slowly, it starts to come back to him. He’s in Paris. He’s been attacked by skinheads. There’s a girl he’s supposed to meet, one who is different from the rest. Lulu. As you remember from Just One Day, Willem never shows back up with Lulu and it might as well be one of those Craigslist missed connections. When he discovers he’s missed Lulu and double happiness, Willem heads to Amsterdam where he’s about to sign some papers that will make him quite wealthy for someone his age. You see, his father Bram died quite suddenly and his mother sold this houseboat that Bram had designed for several hundred thousand dollars. Without a home, Willem decides to travel in search of Lulu, because she has stained him. He does not even know her real name you guys, he just has one day of memories to go on. Along the way, he meets several people who help him in his journey to find Lulu, but most importantly, help him on the path to self discovery. I know I sound all new-agey here, but roll with it.
I think there will be comparisons between Willem and Adam of If I Stay and Where She Went. Guys, they are two totally different fish. The thing about Willem is that he is lost and without mooring. He falls in love quickly, but falls out of love just as quick. He is someone who actually comes across as very passive, letting the wind blow him from place to place and leaving everything up to fate. He’s very much one of those bohemian sorts who drops out of college without a back up plan and just travels around. He does travel light though, with only a few changes of clothes, his passport, money, and a barely working phone. Actually, he reminded me a little bit of Rowan from Wanderlove with the whole traveling thing. Yet, like I said he’s lost. He’s deeply grieving his father. He feels like his mother has abandoned him. So, he hooks up with a succession of girls because he’s missing something inside. Now, this isn’t to say all sleeze balls do that because they are missing something, but this is fiction and well it makes sense. In all, I liked how Willem went from being in a very bad place mentally, to a place of hope. Again, with the new age ha ha.
To me, one of the real big themes in Just One Year is family. Willem’s family is far from typical. It’s just him, his mother – Yael, and his Uncle Daniel who is largely absent from his life. You see, Bram really was the glue that held the family together. After he dies, Yael leaves for India and Willem communicates with her using what he deems postcard language. It seems the two can never connect or experience a common language. It is as though Yael is holding him at arm’s length. However, before you get down on Yael, you have to understand that her romance with Bram was something that stained her. You have to understand that she was raised in Israel by a Holocaust survivor who was incredibly strict. Then there’s his Uncle Daniel, who has a flat in Amsterdam but is never, ever there, until he shows back up in the book. I won’t say more, except that he’s a nice surprise and delight. We also have echoes of his grandfather, Saba which loom large in the pages.
The reason you are reading this review is probably to discover how much page time is devoted to Willem and Allyson together. Not very much you guys, outside of Willem’s memories of THE DAY. That’s okay though. I liked that so much of the book was about pining and searching. It was about free will versus destiny and whether you should be active or just let things happen to you. There is one romantic thread that continues throughout Just One Year that I thought was swoonworthy, and that was the unfolding story of the romance between Yael and Bram. It’s sweet and we do not get the entire tale in an info dump. Suffice to say, it’s a story that you will read and be like OH THAT IS WHY WILLEM IS THE WAY HE IS. And it all comes full circle. Legit, I cannot wait for everyone to read Just One Year, it’s just as transformative as Just One Day.
Disclosure: Borrowed copy from Liz at Consumed By Books THANK YOU SO SO SO SO SOOOOOO MUCH! <3
Other reviews of Just One Year by Gayle Forman:
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