Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Published: October 2013
Genre: young adult
After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.
Willem wakes in a hospital, cut and bruised, with no recollection of the last few hours except a nagging feeling that he’s forgotten something, someone, very important. When his memory comes back, he’s desperate to find Lulu, a girl who stopped his heart and changed his world in one day. But she’s not in Paris anymore, and he has no idea how to find her because “Lulu” isn’t even her real name. From Mexican resorts to Indian film studios, from a best friend’s couch to his uncle’s loft, Willem travels the world and looks deep inside himself, his parents’ complex relationship, and Shakespeare to find the answers. And the answers all point to the mysterious American girl in Paris.
While not as breathtaking as Just One Day — and I’ll only say that because I felt very much like Allyson and not like Willem, a spontaneous yet lost traveler — Forman packs another powerful punch in this world-traveling search for love and individual growth. Willem and Allyson were so incredibly close to running into one another throughout the novel, and it pained me to see them turn around or glance in a different direction and completely miss that connection. It was also fascinating to see the other side of the story: what happened to Allyson’s suitcase, how Willem came to find out about her letter, how Willem deduced where Allyson would be. They each, in their own books, pieced things together with scraps of memory, and it just made the whole concept of love — and finding the one — even more powerful.
Shakespeare’s influence is stronger in this novel than the last, if that’s even possible. While Allyson’s story pieces together various plays to help her explain her life, As You Like It, or more specifically Orlando’s life, takes a hold of Willem throughout the novel. That play is his story, Orlando’s pain his Willem’s pain, and Willem’s role in the play in Amsterdam is intensified ten-fold because he’s no longer acting the role, he is the role.
Bram and Yael’s story come together as well. Though Forman never states things point-blank, it is clear what Willem wants from love, what he perceived his parents’ relationship to be and his role in it. His parents’ story is so like his and Allyson’s, and it pains him to think that after his father’s death Yael no longer wants to see Willem. While that’s not the case at all, it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful to watch Willem’s childhood perception of his parents change into something else entirely — still an all-consuming love, but not one that blocks out the most wonderful proof of their love.
Touching, heartbreaking, joyful, and humorous, Just One Year expresses Willem’s side of the year of growth, and how one day can truly imprint and change one’s being for the better.