Goodreads Description: 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.
Thoughts: You know how there’s that fear the sequel to a book you love won’t live up to the original? Or how there’s that fear that your favorite author’s new book will disappoint? And you know how those two fears are sometimes joined together? Like, for example, in Just One Year. God was I nervous to read this book. Like even when a friend told me she was sending me her advance reading copy and I was so happy for the chance to read it I was also kind of equally afraid.
After Just One Day I honestly really didn’t love Willem. Yeah, I liked him and I liked him and Allyson together and I was so happy when Allison finally found him, but that was almost more about my love of Allyson than my love of Willem or of Allyson and Willem as a couple. Even before Willem disappeared in Paris I didn’t love him. He was just too carefree for me. And then he disappeared and left Allison stranded and I just didn’t know what to think.
I want to say that reading Just One Year made me fall in love with Willem, and that is true, but I’m going to attach a caveat to it. I did fall in love with Willem. I loved reading a book from his perspective and learning all about his background and especially how he felt about his time with Allyson, but I was also dying to know more about their reunion. Then, about halfway through, after wanting Willem to keep holding onto Allyson, I kind of started to wish he would let her go. He was just so miserable, and I don’t think it all had to do with Allyson, but I wanted him to let go of everything holding him down, including Allyson, and build a great life for himself.
I’m kind of making it sound like I didn’t like the book, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I loved this book. I cried several times, I came to really care about Willem and his family, and I felt really invested in what was going to happen, especially towards the end as we got closer and closer to Allyson reappearing in Willem’s life. My real problem lies with how this book fits in with Just One Day, but I think that has to do more with my personal expectations than with anything that Gayle Forman did. When I finished the book my immediate emotion was disappointment, but the more I think about it the more I think the ending was appropriate. Yes, I will always want more, but honestly, the more I think about it, I can’t picture the ending any other way. The way I wanted it to end would pretty much require an entirely separate book (which I still want, come on Gayle Forman!).
The thing I thought about most while I was reading this was that I wish I had a clearer memory of Just One Day. I actually happened to go into a Barnes and Noble when I was about halfway through Just One Year and I decided to finally buy Just One Day and flip through it quickly to reorient myself. But they only had the paperback! I’ve since ordered it and I’m excited to re-read and refresh my memory and see exactly what Allyson was up to, especially the logistics of how exactly she finds Willem. So my recommendation is, if you’re going to read Just One Year, pick up Just One Day before so you’re not driving yourself crazy (unless you have a better memory than I do, which is a real possibility because I have a terrible memory).
My absolutely favorite part of this book was the message. In the end, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, if you read Just One Day you know how it ends and this is more of a general statement any way, Willem learns to make his own happiness. There will always be things in life that we want in life and can’t have, whether it’s a lost camera, a dead family member, or the one who got away. I’ve always believed that life is full of disappointments and loss and other tragedies, but at the end of the day it’s up to us to make our own happiness and I love how Gayle Forman did such a great job of demonstrating that message.
Bottom Line: Outside of my own crazy expectations this book completely lived up to Just One Day. I came to absolutely love Willem and I found myself aching for him and cheering for him and by the end I was even happier that Allyson managed to track him down. Gayle Forman is a complete genius and if you haven’t given her books a chance you need to do so ASAP.
I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend, whose friend of a friend works for Penguin. So I guess somewhere down the line I got the book from Penguin so thank you to whoever there gave a copy to my friend’s friend.