Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Just One Day & Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Just One Day series by Gayle Forman
Reviewed by Maggie: October 23, 2013
Published by Dutton Juvenile on Jan 8, 2013 and Oct 10, 2013
Goodreads • Buy Just One Day at AmazonKindle • Indie
Goodreads • Buy Just One Year at AmazonKindle • Indie

Gayle Forman became one of my auto-buy authors after reading If I Stay and Where She Went. I loved that If I Stay stood on its own, with so much heart in its 196 pages, and I loved that Where She Went brought even more to the story.

After finishing Just One Day at 3:08 am on January 7, I could not wait to see what else Forman would bring to the story in Just One Year. Nine months later, after finishing Just One Year, my reaction was, "Lovely. But that's... it?"

Just One Day was a story that grew on me as the main character grew on herself. Allyson Healey, like Anna Oliphant before her, is begrudgingly in Europe. Her situation is temporary as she is just on an extracurricular trip before starting college in the fall. To Allyson, it seems like everyone is having fun on the trip except her -- because it's true. Things start to change though when she catches the eye of an actor in a Guerrilla Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. After another chance meeting, she takes the biggest leap of her life as "Lulu" and agrees to go to Paris with him for the day. Yada yada yada, she wakes up alone the next morning. When she gets back to the States, her life post-Willem de Ruiter takes a Bella Swandive. She's stuck in that moment in Paris despite now being at college. After months of stagnation and blank pages in her life, she finally starts to wake up from her stupor.

Just One Year is the B-side of this story. Willem de Ruiter is on his own journey of self-discovery after Paris. Actually, he's been on one since before Lulu. The death of his father 3 years earlier upended his family and he's been unmoored ever since. I love that Forman gives Willem's character an arc that is as emotional and messy as Allyson's. Willem has a lot of growing up to do and he gets the full YA treatment, which is really nice to see done to a male character.

With both of these books, I loved how travel played such a huge role in the characters' development. I believed the intense feelings because it's such a heightened experience when you're young and alone and in Paris! (90s flashback: Remember when Brenda almost ran off with Rick?) I don't think you need to travel to find yourself, but while you're out there discovering what the world has to offer you, you may find yourself being asked what you have to offer the world.

Here's the thing. I did enjoy reading these books and would've probably rated them 4 stars. However, after finishing Just One Year and considering the books together, I'm actually giving it 3 stars. Why? This should've been one book. Just One Day is an unfinished story that ends in the last two pages of Just One Year. Just One Day ends on a cliffhanger because it's the middle of a scene! This is really one 692-page book, and a bloated one at that. What I loved about If I Stay was the economy of language. Forman expressed so much with a single gesture. Adam blowing on Mia's cold hands to warm them up tells Mia's mom everything about how he feels. I know Cath Crowley and I are the only fans of dual points of view, but I wish this was one book with dual perspectives, or one book with two parts. Unlike Where She Went, which continued the story after the first book, Just One Year mirrors the first book and then gives you one scene more. As much as I liked reading about Allyson and Willem in their sprawling, individually published stories, I would've loved reading a tighter, complete, single volume.

Series Rating: 3/5 stars.

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