Well . . . that was anticlimactic.
I almost (almost!) put this one down without finishing it, and I’ve only ever done that once with a book. (I plan to finish that particular book at some point, though. It seriously bothers me to leave a book unfinished.)
I read (and reviewed) “Just One Day,” so we already know I neither loved nor hated that book. It was just . . . all right.
But “Just One Year” was just—
I’m not a huge fan of companion novels, but I thought there would maybe be something telling or something interesting to be discovered about Willem. There wasn’t.
I felt like Gayle Forman was desperately trying to meet a word count limit with this book. Like she just told random side stories, then retold stories (seriously, we have to watch Willem rehearse for two different roles in this book. Reading about someone rehearsing for a role isn’t fun even once), then added a few insignificant characters to stretch the novel past her goal word count. I hate giving reviews like this, but I also hate wasting hours of my time on books that don’t tell an actual story.
I was disappointed with how hard this book was trying to be poetic. Authors, please stop trying to make your protagonist seem all intelligent and deep by having them read William Shakespeare. It’s incredibly overdone. There are so many other ways to show the reader that your main character is deep or smart.
I still have no idea what Allyson saw in Willem. (I have zero desire to call her “Lulu” because I think the whole idea of Willem spending an ENTIRE day with Allyson, and then sleeping with her but never once thinking to ask what her name was is ridiculous. It was only added because, without it, there wouldn’t be a story. If Willem had known her real name, he would have found her too easily via the Internet, and there’d be no story. So, “Lulu” had to happen for this entire story to work. And when a plot is hanging by such a thin thread, it’s probably not going to be the most exciting story. This was such a rant within a rant. Apologies.)
Willem has no redeeming qualities. He acts, he travels (thanks to his inheritance money), and he loves to sleep around. I know the author was trying to make him real and give him character, and it’s clear that Gayle Forman dislikes the Prince Charming type of males (I do too!), but being self-centered to the point where you don’t bother asking someone their name, and using girls for sex is pretty lame and makes it hard to believe the whole concept of this story: that after just ONE day, a girl fell madly in love with him, to the point where she got depressed, then worked her ass off to save money to go searching for him again.
I don’t get it.
Something else that was frustrating about this book was that the author kept writing things along the lines of, ‘And then I heard her voice,’ as though she thought she was going to trick us into thinking it was Allyson. She did it way too many times; I can see once, but it just got redundant and gimmicky. Silly, too, considering it’s a companion book, so we know it’s not Allyson’s voice he heard, unless he was going crazy.
Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I need to say something good. Gayle did work hard on this novel as far as research goes. It’s clear that she spent a lot of time researching locations and even languages. That’s admirable. I also think that writing a novel where the main character is traveling a lot would be difficult because you have to make sure everything is right as not to offend people who live in or have visited those locations.
Another good thing about this book is that there is a small mention of Adam Wilde (from Forman’s ‘If I Stay,’ ‘Where She Went‘ books). I loved both of those books so much, so it was cute to see him plopped in there.
Lastly, I do have to say—and I don’t think I’ve ever said this before—that “Just One Day” and “Just One Year” will likely play out better on screen (yes, the two books are being combined into a movie). The beautiful backdrops of Paris and Holland and India will be nice to see. And maybe they’ll fix a few of the major issues this novel has once they adapt it. I will definitely go see the movie as I did love the ‘Before’ trilogy, and this seems like it’ll be similar. And because I loved Forman’s ‘If I Stay’ story so much, I’ll still definitely read her future work. This particular story wasn’t for me, but I still trust that she’s able to tell well-crafted, engaging stories.
If you end up reading ‘Just One Day‘ and ‘Just One Year‘ I do hope you enjoy them much more than I did.