Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Salon: Joint review of Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Bree from All the Books I Can Read and I often find ourselves emailing back and forward about what we are reading or thinking about reading. Recently we realised that we were both about to read Just One Year by Gayle Forman and so it seemed to be a good time for a discussion style review.

Bree has the first part of the discussion here, and I have the second part. My thoughts are in black and Bree's are in purple. Turns out that I enjoyed this book more than she did so it was an interesting discussion.



M: Did you find the similarities of Willem’s experience with those mirroring aspects of Willem’s parent’s story interesting with his own story or too convenient?

B: I would totally agree with you recommending If I Stay and Where She Went as books to start with. I think they better showcase Forman’s true emotional range as a writer. To be honest, I would’ve liked to see a little more emotional growth from Willem in this novel as a gradual thing. I feel like a lot of it was crammed right in to the end of the book and it didn’t seem to evolve as naturally as it could have. Willem seems to rely on other people to do things for him, or for things to fall into his lap - rarely does he display much effort in going out and getting something and making it his so I did applaud him when he played the acting role in the play to his own ability and didn’t take the direction that was given to him. I think that the end of the book shows his best side - he’s ready to move on with his life now, from the wanderlust that took him away from the unhappy circumstances his family found themselves in. He’s also, as you say, probably at that place where he’s able to deal with Allyson reappearing in his life.

I think that there were too many coincidences in the end, between Willem’s parents’ story and Willem’s and actually, I’d liked to have known more about his parents. There’s a few details sprinkled throughout but it sounded quite interesting. It actually took me a long time to even remember who Yael and Bram even were, given he refers to them by their given names. I was all prepared not to like Yael much but once Willem finally went to India and she began to get a voice, I was surprised by how much I found her voice compelling. There was definitely more there that I’d like to know, but it wasn’t their story which is kind of unfortunate!

Ultimately do you think the two books work together? Do you think there was even a need for Willem’s story? Would anything be different if there was only Just One Day?

M: Hmm, good question, one I am not sure that I know the answer for. I think you could probably have put more of Willem’s story into Just One Day and then come back together again, but I think that perhaps that would have diluted some of the more important parts of Allyson’s story. For example, one of the key issues in Just One Day was depression and how it impacts on a young girls life, and it would have been quite difficult to contrast that depression with some of the ways that Willem’s story played out and end up with a well balanced story.

What would your answer to those questions be?

B: Short answer? No and no. Honestly, I know I’m being pretty negative here but this book really didn’t add much to the overall arch of Willem and Allyson. We got maybe two seconds more of story after Just One Day left off and I didn’t get the explanations and reconnection that I really wanted to see. Allyson’s story definitely delves deeper into that depression and struggle to find yourself and balance that with expectations of parents, etc which I’m sure many young people go through when they move out of home and into a college dorm. Some people really struggle with that pressure, especially when they don’t want to know what they want to do with their lives or think that it won’t be approved of. In contrast, Willem kept wandering around the world, never wondering why his money didn’t run did that not cross his mind? If I was backpacking I’d be making sure I always had enough money to pay for my next meal, next bed, next flight or whatever out of there. I wanted this book to give me so much more of the bigger picture and honestly, if I hadn’t read it, I don’t think I’d be missing out on anything. I definitely can’t say that about If I Stay and Where She Went. I know, I know, I keep coming back to those two books. They’re different, I shouldn’t be comparing them. But when I think of them, they’re a story. Together, they make two parts of the same story. There’s a beginning, there’s a middle and then there’s an end, both of them get a satisfactory story and ending. This doesn’t feel the same way.

I’m overthinking it probably!

M: Actually, I think that If I Stay has a beginning, a middle and a not ending in a way. Anyway, that’s an aside!

I went looking to see what Gayle Forman is publishing next and I couldn’t see anything. On the basis of how much you loved If I Stayed and Where She Went and how much you ... didn’t love this one, will you be excited about what comes next?

B: I found a book on Goodreads scheduled for 2015 which is apparently about a girl exploring her best friend’s suicide. Look, I know that I haven’t given this one a glowing review but it’s not a terrible book. It’s just not the book I wanted to read. Gayle Forman has written two of my favourite YA books read in recent times so I’m still going to be pretty keen for anything she has coming out. I kind of hope it’s a stand alone though!

M: Yes, I would hope for standalone too, but I would be surprised if it is because series are such a cash cow in genre fiction that I think that publishers look for series rather than stand alone and she has been successful with these kind of connected books.

Whilst these two books didn’t stand up against the excellent If I Stay and Where She Went I do think that Forman is a very talented author who has the ability to write some amazing books. She has such a way with words. and there are time when I just have to stop and reread a phrase or a sentence, as in the example below from page 250.

The breath that comes out of me isn't a sigh or a sob or a shudder. It's something alive, like a bird, wings beating, taking flight. And then it's gone, off into the quiet afternoon.

I’ll take a quiet afternoon to read whatever she comes up with next!

B: Definitely! I think that she has many amazing stories still to come.

Rating 4/5


Twenty four hours can change your life....

Allyson and Willem share on magical day together in Paris, before chance rips them apart.

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents life throws at us.

But is one day enough to find your fate?

Currently Reading

A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin and listening to The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith.

Next up

Bellagrand by Paullina Simons and Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt


  1. This is another one of those authors I'd love to read one day

  2. I love reading discussions like this. A friend and I are always going back and forth about a television show we watch--while I'm not sure anyone else would be interested in our thoughts on it, it would be interesting to put it in a format like this.

    Anyway, your book discussion has me curious about this book and the ones before.