Book Review & Giveaway: Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Posted 10/16/2013 by alicemarvels in Contemporary
Just One Year by Gayle Forman




Publisher: Dutton Children's
Release Date: October 10, 2013
Page Count: 336


beautiful writing, touching mother/son relationship moments; realistic but heart-pounding romance


not as much closure as I was hoping for

A beautiful complement to the romantic, heartwrenching coming of age story we loved in Just One Day.

Just One Year was probably one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I adored Just One Day, and was dying to find out what happens next in Allyson and Willem’s story. We revisit the morning after their “one day” in Paris, this time from Willem’s perspective, and we find out why he disappeared, leaving Allyson to fend for herself in a foreign city. I was immediately drawn into Willem’s story, following his progress from Paris to Holland and beyond.

Here are a few reasons Just One Year is amazing:

Clever Interplay Between Willem and Allyson’s Stories

Willem and Allyson in Just One Day/Just One Year

“It takes a certain kind of naivete, or perhaps just stupidity, to know how things will end and still hope otherwise.”

I knew the idyllic day in Paris would end badly, and I also knew many situations Allyson would go through before reaching the epic ending from book one. Forman beautifully weaves Willem’s experiences over the following year with Allyson’s, and we see some tantalizing parallels and intersections. We feel their closeness long before the ending we already know is imminent. It had me wishing some accident of plot could change everything, and allow them to meet sooner, which is silly, I know. But proof that these two stories manage their own brand of suspense that can only come from deep emotional investment.


Realistic Romance


There is nothing more romantic than being swept off your feet when you meet someone, and potentially beginning one of those epic love stories that children and grandchildren will repeat wistfully, the sort of story that allows people to believe in fairy tale love. But those stories so rarely materialize in the real world, and Willem and Allyson’s romance manages that feeling of breathless wonder while being rooted firmly on the ground, tempered with real life situations and expectations. Willem definitely feels differently about Lulu than the hordes of women he’s encountered in the past.

“That day with Lulu it didn’t feel anything like falling. It felt like arriving.”

But on that fateful day in Paris, he’s not ready to truly love someone, to be stained by them. And it takes this year of introspection to realize that; to become brave enough to open himself to love, and to stop drifting from one meaningless romantic encounter to the next, leaving broken hearts in his wake.

“I wanted to be protected by her love, and to be protected from it.

I didn’t understand then. Love is not something you protect. It’s something you risk.”


Outstanding Supporting Characters

Episode 501

 “After so much contracting, somehow, inexplicably, my family is growing again.”

Once again, the supporting characters are fantastic. In Just One Day, Allyson met many characters on her year-long journey who stuck out in my mind, but Dee was by far my favorite. During the same period, Willem reunites with old friends, such as his childhood bestie Broodje, and meets new ones on his travels, like American theater director Kate, who each offer plenty of real talk for Willem when he desperately needs it. But by FAR my favorite supporting character in this book is Yael, Willem’s mother, with whom he has a complicated, strained relationship. I love watching their relationship’s truths unravel as Willem goes through his year searching and longing for Lulu.



Willem De Ruiter goes to Mumbai in JUST ONE YEAR

“I find myself wishing for the anonymity of the road, where you had no past and no future either, just that one moment in time. And if that moment happened to get sticky or uncomfortable, there was always a train departing to the next moment.”

Gayle Forman knows how to write about traveling in a way that makes you eager to explore the world, and experience all the beauty, ugliness, uncertainty, and serendipity of the road untraveled. I adore books about travel, because characters can truly test themselves and grow when they’re thrust into foreign situations and forced to adapt. Travel opens the mind in a way being comfortable and safe at home can never do, and it makes a person more capable, more adaptable, and stronger. I loved seeing Allyson and Willem transform into strong, capable, bold people before our eyes, and I loved tagging along for the ride in some of the most interesting locations in the world.



as you like it

“The last three years solidify into this one moment, into me, into Orlando. This bereft young man, missing a father, without a family, without a home. This Orlando, who happens upon this Rosalind. And even though these two have only known each other moments, they recognize something in each other.”

Once again, Forman weaves Shakespeare’s plays into her work, giving us a contemporary appreciation for the Bard’s famous lines. I think I actually prefer the Shakespeare allusions in this installment more, because of the way Willem approaches the lines and how they weave in with his memories of Lulu. It’s pure magic, especially at the end.


Beautiful writing

Young woman lying on field, reading book, ground view

“Sometimes fate or life or whatever you want to call it, leaves a door a little open and you walk through it. But sometimes it locks the door and you have to find the key, or pick the lock, or knock the damn thing down.”

Forman has so many wise musings on life, love, happiness, fate and self-determination, it is hard not to crease nearly every page of your book while reading. She is one of those YA writers who can give you ALL THE FEELS with just a few sentences, and you know she could be writing upmarket litfic if she wanted to, but you’re just so glad she’s writing beautiful coming of age stories because she is one of the reasons you can proudly say you read YA.



Minor Quibbles:

For those who like to have their romances careen past the ending and show a bit of the “happily ever after” you might be disappointed in Just One Year‘s ending, which leaves quite a lot to the imagination. I think I’m more curious than ever to see what happens next with these two. As I’ve read these books and let them marinate in my mind, it’s clear that I’m not rooting for the same two people who spent that day in Paris together a year ago, I’m rooting for two entirely changed people to come together anew, almost as if for the first time. Hopefully that relationship will work, but even if it doesn’t I feel sure they’re both better people for it. Somehow it makes me even more anxious to see more of their future story, but not in a hasty epilogue, so I’m glad Forman didn’t go that route. Preferably we would get an entire book devoted to their future story. A girl can dream, right?


Just One Year is an honest, unflinching coming of age story, just as its predecessor was. I know the romance will occupy many readers thoughts, but for me this story’s strength is in seeing these two individuals change for the better, spurred on by the extraordinary day they shared and a year’s worth of longing, questioning and self-examination. This is a series I would highly recommend to readers of any age—there is so much beauty and wonder in these pages I feel sure it goes beyond genre or marketing labels. Just read it—double happiness guaranteed.


Read an excerpt here.
Just One Year Blog Tour:

Check out our stop on the Just One Year blog tour, in which Gayle confesses her love for Miami Beach.

Watch the trailer:



Thanks to the folks at Penguin, we have one copy of Just One Year to give away. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below:


a Rafflecopter giveaway



    I loved Just One Day and now while waiting to read this book I cannot wait to see Willem’s side of the story. I mean I really liked him as a character but I need to see what hides behind all the mystery he created. It seems to me I’ll get to see it. Great review 🙂


    I haven’t read Just One Day yet, but everyone has been raving on and on about it, so I know at some point I must get to it. I’m so glad to hear that this second book also worked for you, Lauren. The romance and the writing sound absolutely wonderful! I can’t wait!
    Lovely review!


    This book has been on my wishlist. I am glad you enjoyed this one, I love getting inside “his” head as well. Wonderful review!


    Sad to hear there isn’t as much closure as wanted, but the writing sounds great


    I have both of the books in this duology and I so need to read them!!

    Great review!!


    Gah, this reminds me so much that I really need to check out Gayle Forman’s books soon! I haven’t read any of them yet, and I KNOW I’m missing out. Even though I have zero knowledge of the characters you’re talking about, I’m so glad that this sequel lived up to your expectations! It’s always such a relief when sequels don’t fall prey to the second-book-syndrome.

    We feel their closeness long before the ending we already know is imminent. It had me wishing some accident of plot could change everything, and allow them to meet sooner, which is silly, I know.” — No, not silly at all! If a book is able to make you feel so strongly about its conclusion, then I think the author has definitely achieved something by impacting you on so many emotional levels. It’s not often we come across contemporaries like this.

    And yes! There’s definitely nothing better than realistic romance that just breaks your heart into several pieces. And I love that quote you picked out. I love that it takes the whole “falling in love” cliche and turns it into something different. I can already sense Gayle’s beautiful writing just from all those quotes you shared!

    Good secondary characters are a huge plus as well. I also find it surprising that your favorite character was someone’s mom, because most of the time, even though family may be a strong element in a book, I don’t feel very much toward them, compared to the protagonist or the love interest or the protag’s best friend. It’s also great that the author took the time to develop the characters and their relationships with one another. It makes things a lot more realistic, for sure.

    Brilliant review! I love how organized it was — unlike mine, which is all over the place most of the time. >.< Just reading this makes me want to rush to the nearest bookstore and snag myself all copies of Gayle's books. But alas. My pocket won't allow that, so I'll just have to settle for something else instead.


    Oh, I have brought the first book home from the library a couple of times and STILL haven’t read it. What a lovely review, and lovely pictures. I really need to get to both of these. Thanks!


    I really should try one of her books one day


    I’ve wanted to read this book since the last book ended! I can’t wait. It looks like I’ll be begging for that last book to be written. Wouldn’t that be great to get another book that gives us our total HEA? Even if not, I still know you made me want to read this even more.


    I have heard so many positive things about this series I must find time to read it. It reminds me of the movie… Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke. Anyway, it sounds like a realistic and touching story, I would be one though who would feel a little cheated about the ending, perhaps it is a bit open because she intends on continuing it?


    I’m much better armchair traveler than actual traveler (though I wish it were the opposite) and Foreman really does know how to put you in the setting as if you’re there. This book is arriving at my house today — can’t wait to read it (despite the not-completely-satisfying ending).


    I only recently read my first Gayle Forman books — If I Stay and Where She Went — and I really enjoyed them, especially the first. Thank you for this beautiful review — even with the ending (I do so love my happily-ever-afters), this series is definitely going on my reading list. The quotes you featured are gorgeous, and I really enjoyed your thoughts. Fantastic!


    Thanks for sharing the snippets of writing – they are so beautiful! I think I’ll have to get this one, just to read, be swept away and feel the magic. Loved your review!


    I too LOVED this one and agree, I want another book with what comes next! I also loved the traveling and wish I could be there for real. At those points when they were so close I was also imaging them meeting again sooner, which I know is ridiculous, but I couldn’t help it. I agree that they needed the journeys they went through apart because it has changed them both SO much. It’s so perfect and so beautiful and powerful that I tear up just thinking about it! LOVE these books!


    This book seemed so focused on the main couple to me, I just didn’t think secondary characters played an important role, but I’m very glad they did. They seem to have made the book much stronger.
    I’m not a believer in these epic love stories, but Forman is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve been waiting for both books to be out, and now that they are, I’m fresh ut of excuses.
    Gorgeous review as usual.


    This one and the first book have been on my wishlist. I don’t mind book without the HEA, and I can’t wait to be able to get copies from my library. Great review.


    I’m so glad you enjoyed this! It’s one of my favorites and though I agree that the romantic in me would have loved a little more from the ending, I think Forman was driving at the fact that strong relationships are based more off of the thought to make it work and sustain it than maybe the relationship dynamics – which we did already see in JOD. Lovely, detailed review! 🙂


    I’ll immediately grasp your rss as I can not find your email subscription link or newsletter service.

    Do you’ve any? Please allow me understand so that I could
    subscribe. Thanks.

Leave a Response

  • Twitter
  • Facebook