Double Review: Just One Day & Just One Year

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Gayle Forman
Definitions Books (imprint of Random House)
Published 10th January 2013/10th October 2013
Bought from Bookworld

 After reading and falling in love with If I Stay and Where She Went, I was really looking forward to Just One Day and Just One Year, so I bought them together so I could devour one after the other. I didn’t know what I was expecting from the two books except that I expected it to be amazing. I expected the same level of emotion, the raw feelings and the ugly sobbing I exhibited the first time around. I expected to feel it all, right down deep in my chest and my gut and a headache from all the crying. I expected something really wonderful.

I set the bar too high. I let my love for the other two books I’d read by Gayle Forman get the better of me and so I am partly to blame for what comes next…

Just One Day – 3.5 stars

I have never read a book where I disliked the main character, Allyson, so much but still really enjoyed the writing and the story (mostly). This is strange I suppose because the story is made up of Allyson’s actions and I generally thought most of these were pretty stupid. But I really appreciated the character and plot development, even though it was pretty crazy on her part. By the end, she was pretty tolerable but the end in itself was pretty disappointing for me. She made a decision I didn’t think she needed to and kind of backtracked a bit over all that character development.

There was a lot of eye rolling for me while reading but I was glad that there wasn’t any point where I wanted to throw this book across the room. It was all influenced by Allyson – I have no problem pointing fingers. She is melodramatic, ungrateful and at times, extremely stupid, no matter her GPA. Her tour in Europe may not be what she wanted but her parents paid and organised it for her (when I took off overseas after high school I organised and financed the whole thing myself) and yet she shows no inkling of gratitude, only worrying that she hasn’t had the Europe experience she wanted. That would have a lot to do with her attitude! And when she does decide to actually enjoy herself and take off for a day to Paris with a stranger, she takes no notice of where she is or where she’s going, she does nothing in terms of looking after herself and when her one night stand takes off, she’s left lost and in tears in a strange country with no idea where she is or how to speak the language. She has absolutely nobody to blame for herself, honestly what did she think was going to happen? And then instead of accepting the fact that yes, shit happens, and chalking it down to experience and an awesome exotic story to tell (because in the end she was fine!) about your trip to Paris, she lets it ruin her life for a whole year. On top of that, she doesn’t want to do pre-med like her parents thought and so secretly takes other classes. Well done for acting like an adult! (More eye rolling.)

The fact that she is just so dependent on everyone around her really grated on my nerves but then when she finally decided to stand up and do something for herself I was pretty pleased with the character development that came out of having to get a job and manage money and be a person in the real world. The privilege in this novel really pissed me off and she could easily be perceived as spoilt, but the worst thing was there was no indication that this was the intention of the author, who instead focused on Allyson ‘finding herself’ and ‘a quest for lost love’ yadda yadda yadda. Every girl is described as pretty and when she’s with her stranger boy, immediately identified as a threat. I personally felt she had no reason to hate Celine or any of the other girls, even if Celine was a bit of a bitch at times. Willem did not belong to her and yet she immediately assumed he did. Her revelations by the end of the novel were heartening to read, though, and I was glad it seemed like she grew up and moved on.

My rating is conflicting me! But I did enjoy it and Paris and Holland were painted so exquisitely in this novel (I have the wanderlust), the writing was fantastic (as always) I think this one can get 3.5 stars. BECAUSE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT (even though it didn’t end how I thought it should).

just one year – 3 stars

Just One Year is Gayle Forman’s follow up to Just One Day. It picks up his story after he leaves Lulu – or Allyson – after their ‘lifechanging’ day together. Finally we get to find out what happened to him, where he went, whether he really just did a runner because he’s an arse (but did we ever really think he was?). This book follows him over the year until his (let’s face it) inevitable reunion with Allyson and tracks a jaunt through Mexico, to a reunion in India with his mother, and back to Holland – his home – again to face his past.

I’ve just closed Just One Year (which having read Just One Day I knew how it was going to end, more or less) and my reaction is just a bit like ‘meh’. I don’t feel any joy, hope, sadness; no pangs or stirrings of love, loneliness or anything else. I read the last sentence and was already looking for my next book.

It really sucks when you realise an author you loved before has delivered something you can’t get excited about as you read. I put it down for two days and barely even thought about it. So why and how did this happen? What was it about this one that didn’t sit right with me? I think it’s because, after reading and in the end mostly enjoying Just One Day, I considered Allyson and Willem’s story to be done with – even with the looming question of what had happened to him that day. I know that at the end of Just One Day, you could consider their story to be just beginning, blah blah blah but bookwise I thought it was pretty much over. I liked what I thought was the ending, then it changed up a bit, and I accepted that new ending. I knew there was another book, but to me Just One Day could have been a standalone. Even though we got a new insight into Willem, it didn’t feel like any new ground was being covered. I’m normally good with slow moving books as long as I get something else out of it – a deep plot, a greater understanding – but this one just didn’t do it for me as I watched Willem’s lacklustre search through Mexico for Lulu and through India for a relationship with his mother that he’d never had.

The one great thing about this book was the travelling. Forman has provided us, yet again, with beautiful descriptions of places I’ve never been but can picture vividly in my mind’s eye and I can feel my wanderlust rearing up again. Mexico, Cancun, India, Amsterdam – so many places to choose from! And Willem just lazily hops around the world the way we all wish we could. Funny how money never seems to be a problem for him (Brit, stop hating on rich people. It’s not their fault!). He also rarely seems to enjoy what he’s doing, just wandering around like a lost puppy, but then again maybe that’s the point. He’s got the life and yet he’s unhappy.

I found it hard to sympathise with Willem and lacked interest in his story until he got back to Amsterdam and Shakespeare. As we got closer to the end, I was a bit eager to see how the stories matched up but it seemed to me he was just a bit over keen to find exactly what his parents had with a dream girl who it may not even work out with. It’s all a bit romantic and though I have a soft spot, I guess I’m a bit more pragmatic than that so it didn’t strike a chord with me.

I just couldn’t feel it but I still love Gayle Forman’s writing.

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