October 3, 2013

Flip Sides of the Same Coin

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Release Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Penguin | Dutton Children's Books
Pages: 336 pages
Series: Just One Day #2
Source & Format: ARC from Magan!
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
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 on Just One Year
I don't even know where to begin with this book. I read Just One Day earlier this year after hearing almost nothing but love for the book. I'd been on the fence about Forman's If I Stay but had really enjoyed the follow-up, Where She Went, and was curious about what she'd write next. I ended up loving Just One Day in a way I never could have imagined. In fact, I couldn't even write a full review for it (opting instead to write a short mini-review) because I just couldn't find the words. I both love and hate when a book leaves me feeling that way. I'd connected so much to Allyson's story. I related to the way she always did what she was told and how she starts to realize how she's missing out on really living by just settling for what's safe. I was cheering her on as she started to finally, slowly, emerge into someone who finally knew who she was and what she wanted.

And then there was Willem.

I was dying to read his side of the story. I didn't have the most positive feelings about him after the way things happened with Allyson, so I was really curious to hear his side of the story. So, you can imagine my shock and delight when I came home from work one Friday to discover a package from Magan @ Rather Be Reading was waiting for me. Opening it up to find a copy of Just One Year, I think my husband must have thought I'd won the lottery. After much squealing and dancing around later, I was profusely thanking my sweet friend for thinking of me. What a surprise!

There was no chance I was going to be reading anything else that weekend. I KNEW that I had to dive into Willem's story. However, it had been several months since I'd read Just One Day. I mean, I remembered what had happened but I wondered if this book would resonate more if I re-read the previous book first. Well, I have to tell you - I'm so happy that's what I did!

I would have loved this book regardless, but diving back into Just One Day first gave me a deeper appreciation for the way Forman has crafted these complementary stories. They fit together so beautifully - it's like two halves coming together and making a whole. I think Just One Year is so much stronger when you get to see how tightly woven together the events are in each. The first reads like a coming-of-age tale - a perfect picture of that time between adolescence and the first stages of adulthood. The second reads like a quest. Willem is, in many ways, a little boy lost. He's lost a part of himself in his years abroad, and it's time to face the past and search for what he's been missing.

International travel plays a significant role in Just One Year, and it left me longing to pack my bags and see the world. Forman makes each place come alive on the page - each city became like a living and breathing character. I loved how places are so important in this book, and it made Willem's journey feel even more like a quest to me.

One thing plays a big role in Just On Year is Willem's strained relationship with his family. I absolutely loved this aspect of the book because it felt realistic. I could see how the pressure of loss and grief had caused the small cracks that already existed to expand into a larger split. I wasn't sure if I'd connect to his story - being in Allyson's head in Just One Day certainly influenced my early perceptions of him - but I'm so pleased that I ended up just falling in love with this character.

Just One Year was emotional, lovely, authentic... It's a journey with a character that I know I'll be taking over and over again because I can already see many rereads in my future. I may have found Allyson more relatable, but I still found myself so invested in Willem's story. The pain in his past just made me ache for him, and I loved seeing his growth and progress.

Of course, if you're anything like me, you'll still be dying to get to Part Two. I won't say anything at all about it because you just need to enjoy everything leading up to it. When you turn the page and realize you're there, take a deep breath and just savor all the moments that have led up to the conclusion of this story.

Just One Year was the perfect conclusion to this story that felt so unlike anything I've ever read. These characters are so special to me, and I'm so thankful that I don't really have to ever say goodbye to them. They'll always be waiting there on these pages I've come to love - two separate stories that come together in a way that makes them better, stronger and all the lovelier. I haven't talked about anything that happens in this book because I want everyone to discover it for themselves. But I have no problem telling you that I'll be pushing Just One Day and Just One Year on everyone I know. They're just that wonderful.

So Quotable
"There's a different between losing something you knew you had and losing something you discovered you had. One is a disappointment. The other feels like losing a piece of yourself. I didn't realize that before. I realize it now."

8 comments:

  1. We are review twins today! I posted my review of Just One Year too :) Your description of the two books being like two halves is perfect. You really can't have one without the other and like you, my perception of Willem was a bit iffy too. So I happily surprised by how much I ended up feeling for him and for his journey. Learning about his past and his family really made a lot of sense. Sigh.. just thinking about the book makes me want to do a re-read of both!

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    1. Yay review twins! I'm so glad you ended up loving Willem, too. His family, his loss, his journey, his actions - it all made so much more sense. And so happy you agree that these books are like two halves. They just work so well together!

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  2. My bank account doesn't like my new friends because they keep making me spend money by writing reviews like this!!! :) haha

    I bought Just One Day when it first came out but somehow never got around to reading it. After reading your review, I'm so glad I did that so I can dive right in to Willem's story. But now I'm chomping at the bit to read it because it sounds like it has everything I love in a book. Great review Hannah!

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    1. Hahah! Sorry not sorry, bank account :)

      I'm actually really excited that you haven't read Just One Day yet because I think you'll love being able to read them back-to-back. PLEASE read them soon so we can discuss!

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  3. Ah. What a gorgeous review. I can't wait + I think I will be taking your suggestion and re-reading Just One Day. It's been awhile... maybe I will buy the paperback? Oh my god. I have such such problems. haha. I can't wait to see what the fuss is about! SO so close!

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    1. Thanks E! Hahah yes go buy the paperback :) I love that cover. And I hope you do re-read Just One Day first. I think it makes this one resonate that much more to see how they're so tightly plotted and complementary. And then we can discuss!

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  4. I was avoiding reviews for this one like the plague because I wanted to experience it myself first. I read it Friday and I totally fell in love with Willem, too. Especially all the stuff about his family, I just wanted to give him a big hug. The only thing I wish I had done differently is look back at Just One Day. I loved Just One Day and I thought I remembered it well, but clearly I didn't and I think I would have liked Just One Year even more if I had re-read Just One Day first. Great review!

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    1. OH YAYYYY! I'm so glad you fell in love with Willem, too. I wasn't expecting to - but I should have known better than to doubt Forman. I almost didn't re-read Just One Day, but I finally decided to because I knew it would be a quick read. Once I started, I was really glad I did because I didn't remember a lot of what had happened. And then I would have missed out on some of the ways Just One Year fit with it! I hope you'll eventually go back and read the two back-to-back because I think you'll love them all the more :)

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