May 9, 2014

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

The devastation caught me off guard. There's a difference between losing something you knew you had and losing something you discovered you had. One is a disappointment. The other is truly a loss.
-from Just One Year by Gayle Forman
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Amazon | Goodreads

This review kind of contains spoilers for Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Willem spent one day in Paris with a girl he nicknamed Lulu, but after they were separated he can't stop thinking about her. Gayle Forman's Just One Year is Willem's story of the events that transpire the year after their one day together. From having to face his father's death, to dealing with his emotionally detached mother, and never being able to let go of "Lulu", whose real name Willem doesn't even know; Willem journeys through self-discovery over the course of a year very similarly to Lulu in a love story that's more about loving one's self more than romantic love.

This was one of the most difficult books for me to rate since it took me more than three weeks to read because I just was not feeling it. I don't think I care enough about Willem, or Lulu for that matter, so I never fully attached to this series (Duo? Couplet? What do you call 2-book series?) the way it seems everyone else did. And I cannot understand why because for the most part Willem and Lulu are pretty realistic and likable. I think that theirs is a smart and responsible love story and I commend Forman for not just writing about what is essentially love-at-first sight superficially (like so many other love stories). The writing is solid, the characters throughout are great and the arc is fine- but it just didn't click with me. However, because I think this is more just my attention-span than any issue with the book, I do think it deserves 4-stars. Does that even make sense? I hope you understand.

I think my biggest problem with this series is that I felt like I was blindly led into a story and I really didn't know where it was going to go beyond the one day in Paris. It made me realize that as a reader I like an itinerary: I like the synopsis to lead me at least halfway through a book and by the time the unexpected comes, I want to be so captivated that the characters or plot can carry me the rest of the way. Both Just One Day and Just One Year were solid books, but all I knew was that I was going to have to follow Willem through a whole year and, not really caring much about him in the first place, I was instantly bored.

However, Willem's story isn't boring (which makes this the most bipolar review I've ever written). There is a good arc that leads him to self-discovery, introduces new characters, and helps him understand his relationship with his strange mother. Unfortunately for me, I was better able to appreciate the arc at the end of the story and not knowing where it was going while reading was not as interesting to me. Even when I expected to find his overlapping destinations and feelings with Lulu to excite me, I was just kind of resigned as a reader. Fortunately I wasn't so resigned that I missed the Adam Wilde reference, that was pretty clever of Forman.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book better if Willem's story was written within the same book as Lulu's story so that their missed connections would have been more pronounced. But I also do appreciate that their stories are separate to reinforce their individual journeys. I truly think I am just outside the norm in not loving this book, but I have to understand that I'm not going to love all books just because everyone else does. That's the beauty of reading and why there are so many millions of books in the world. This book isn't bad, but I wish I would have maybe invested my time in something I would have loved more.

Bottom Line: Great characters, strong writing, wide arc - but somehow this one missed the mark for me. I can't quite explain it because I can tell you all the ways it was a great book, but some books just don't hit everyone the same way. I recommend this to you if you enjoy stories of self-discovery in the midst of romance, especially if you love reading about world travel. 4/5 Stars.

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