Author: Gayle Forman
Published: October 10, 2013 by Dutton's Children
Through accident he found her, and lost her at the same time.
As a firm believer of "accidents", Willem sets out on his journey in Just One Year and transports the readers from the climactic, to the poignant events of his spontaneous life, as he travels around the world— from Mexico to India, to name a few—in hopes of finding the girl he knows as Lulu, whom he met and spent a magical day with in Paris.
The story takes place after he left Lulu in the art squat, when he suddenly finds himself in complete distraught, suffering from a temporary memory loss after he let another "accident" make the decision for him. Set in the same timeline as its companion novel Just One Day, which was told in the point of view of Lulu, this book reveals who Willem really is: a troubled young man who wants to escape the memories of his past and the responsibilities that await him at home. As the story progresses, Willem slowly realizes the huge impact of meeting Lulu, of how she made him realize the things he never thought of before, just like how empty he is. In his travels, he somehow finds something of meets someone who reminds him of her, as if he couldn't escape the memories that the two of them shared on that day in Paris.
Since this is a companion novel, readers would understand Willem's take in Just One Year better if they had read Just One Day. The questions left unanswered by the first novel will all be answered here, especially as to why Willem left Lulu, whose name is actually Allyson.
Gayle Forman's prose never ceases to amaze. Her vivid descriptions would make the readers feel as if they're living inside the story, together with the characters she has written. Forman was able to balance a great story with her distinct style of writing, and it is evident throughout the entire novel.
Just like in Just One Day, Willem discovers an important piece of himself, and that perhaps meeting Lulu changed him for the better. There's still a difference between the two novels even though both have the same goal, which is for Willem and Lulu to find each other. In Just One Day, Lulu wants to be free of the "perfect daughter" image that her parents have set for her, whereas in Just One Year, Willem doesn't want to face the realities of his life, which is one of the reasons why he spent that day with Lulu in Paris. Their meeting created a huge impact on their lives and on the kind of person they've become towards the end of the novel. The notion of serendipitous meeting was highlighted in both novels, and it was woven beautifully within the story.
However, readers would probably enjoy the book more if Forman included the meeting of Lulu and Willem in Stratford-Upon-Avon before they parted ways in the art squat. Considering the exciting things they did in Paris, it would've been great to know what Willem felt during his short time with Lulu. On the bright side, Forman somehow made it up to the fans through Willem, on how he relives some of the memories he had with Lulu. And with Willem, you'll never know what he'll do.
From If I Stay to Just One Day, Gayle Forman takes the readers to an emotionally-charged ride with her stories about family, understanding, and finding true love. Both avid readers and those who are new to the world of young adult literature will surely love the story of Willem and Allyson in Just One Year as its simple yet ideal ending will surely tug at their heartstrings, leaving them yearning for more, hoping to know what happens to these two people who took the risk if looking for each other, but in the end found a piece of themselves.
* This book review has been published in the annual magazine of The Commerce Journal, the official student publication of the UST - College of Commerce and Business Administration