Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Release Date: October 10, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Check it out on Goodreads
Just One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read.Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began....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.
Don't get this wrong because of the cover; this is not a love story. This is not a pure romance stricken with longing and constantly thinking of the other. It was about looking for somebody, yes, but it was about finding himself. In all his travels and random explorations, Willem was thinking about much more than simply a relationship. And it was an incredible book.This book was so elegantly put together. The more I think about it, the cleaner the connections were. I love books that make everything tie together in the end and this book did a beautiful job while still maintaining that yearning feeling of there being untold stories beneath the one we just read. Gayle Forman has this compelling writing style rooted in evocative detail that still manages to feel completely solid. It's a breath of fresh air.There's this allegory in the book about double happiness, being two sides of the same coin. The books themselves - Just One Day and Just One Year - are two books that meshed so well together. As a whole, the books don't overanalyze each others' perspectives or go into too much detail. Instead, it plucks different details from each narrative, two separate stories that just managed to intersect and leave a lasting impression. That's what a story like this should be; it made me so unbelievably and full.I read this article about how we can never get lost anymore. Willem's character really made me think about it - he had this magnificent ability to just pick up and leave and explore the world. I always think about how there's a difference between being alone and being lonely and Willem seemed to toe that line constantly. It was about being lost and finding himself in the process.Willem was so interesting. First off, books from the male perspective are always great to read in a market that (although progress has been made) is often saturated only with the feminine POV. Between his engrossing personality and struggles borne from his family and relationships, he quite literally runs away constantly. It brings up questions of travel and identity, how easy it is to get left vs. leave. He was so well-rounded with an intelligence and passion that was really refreshing. Willem's definitely one of my favorite characters of the past year.The supporting characters were so vivid. Yael and Broodje were really the only two recurring characters but Willem had so many enchanting interactions with people from all around the world. The bonds he formed while traveling were instant, and sometimes he had these bizarre coincidences that linked it all together in a way that showed the world to be really lovely.This book awakened my wanderlust to travel. Willem seemed to land in a different country every fifty pages or so and it was such a freeing concept. He maintained connections and had a full life but he wasn't in the same place. It was never monotonous. He discovered so many amazing little back-roads and interesting places. It took a kind of strength: leaving everything, including material possessions, behind.This tied in family really well, which I hadn't been expecting. Part of Willem's personality spurred from his family history, which was messy but not overtly dramatic. It was complex, it was real, it was both disheartening and inspirational by the end. There were stories that weren't told but they weren't broken plot threads. It was woven together in a way that emphasized the clash in personalities and the overlaps that comes with a tangible family. In addition, the mesh of cultures and languages added to the colorful texture of the book itself.I love books that don't focus on the romance. Don't get me wrong - I love my love stories. But instead, the book was dotted with this longing, this wistfulness for what-ifs and what-could-have-been. There were casual girls and slighted ex-lovers and friendly banters but it wasn't solely focused on the girl he was looking for in Paris: Lulu. There were moments when he mulled over that day with a breathlessness and frustration that kept him looking for her, but that showed itself through his other adventures. It never felt overdone.Accidents. That's what this book was about. Willem deliberately would go out of his way to experience things, whether it be a new play to audition for or a friendship to build. He'd just pick a place and go. His nostalgia and reckless bravery in what he decided he wanted for a life were admirable and thrown in so well. His memories punctuated each chapter beautifully. This book is about the merciless accidents that can suddenly change the course of life and coincidence and the strangeness of the world we live in. That was absolutely beautiful to read about and it was such an engaging book that it was a complete experience.With a balance between making me think and sweeping me away into a wistful mixture of longing and wanderlust, Just One Year is a solid read with an air of romance that's unparalleled at the moment. You definitely don't need to read Just One Day to understand it but they came out so nicely together. This is self-discovery in an intelligent, dreamy form that's a treat to read.Recommended for anybody who loves: Wanderlove, Just One Year, Juliet Immortal, Eyes Like Stars, When You Were Here, This is What Happy Looks Like; etc,. Possible book club questions to come.