All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Joint Review: Just One Year – Gayle Forman

Just One YearJust One Year (Just One Day #2)
Gayle Forman
Definitions Publishing (Random House UK)
2013, 323p
Read from my local library

The following is a joint review between myself and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. I have the first part of the conversation and Marg has the second part. My thoughts are in blue and Marg’s are in red.

B: Gayle Forman is an author who needs no introduction to YA fans. Her novels If I Stay and it’s follow up/companion Where She Went have left sobbing fans in their wake as people fell under Forman’s emotional spell. If I Stay is also soon to be a feature film and I think it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it for the big screen. Forman has moved on though, with her novel Just One Day released last year and its companion Just One Year. I read Just One Day about a year ago but I have to admit, I didn’t rush to read Just One Year. However I recently read a review of it that made me remember about it and I decided it was time to find out what happened between Willem and Allyson and experience Willem’s point of view. I’m just going to jump right in here Marg – was Just One Year the story you expected it to be?

M: It was the story I expected it to be but it was also more. When reading Just One Day, it was clear that Willem was meant to be somewhat enigmatic in terms of his character and so what I really wanted was the explanation of why he behaved the way he did and how did he end up where he was. After all, he was 21 years old, living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, and even then we knew that from a girl perspective he was very much a one night stand kind of guy.

Did you feel as though the who and why of Willem was sufficiently explained?

 

B: In a way yes and in a way no. Essentially I wanted two things from this story – Willem’s point of view in Paris and what happened after Allyson knocked on his door at the end of Just One Day. I understand why we didn’t get a lot of Paris and how it only came to him later in fragments and bits and pieces. And even though that disappointed me, I understand that a lot of that story had already been told and Forman obviously didn’t want to repeat herself or backtrack the story. However without his point of view on it, I really didn’t feel the intensity or his interest in finding Allyson/Lulu, which he goes all the way to Mexico to do, because she mentioned she goes there with her family for spring break. I found it difficult to warm to Willem, even in Just One Day and I’m not sure this book really helped me see much more from his point of view. It became a blur of girls and locations. My favourite part of the book was Willem’s trip to India (not the Bollywood stuff but the conversations where he finally manages to connect with his mother after basically his entire life). In fact that might be the only part of the novel that I really enjoyed.

 

M: Ouch. I think I must of enjoyed it more than you then. I agree that there was definitely a blur of locations and girls but at least the way that Willem could have afforded to go to Mexico and India and lots of other places in between was explained reasonably, which doesn’t necessarily always happen in YA.

I really wondered if I had of enjoyed this book more if I had read Just One Day more recently. As it was there has been more than a year. I found myself trying to remember where Allyson was at exactly that point in the year. For example, as you mentioned Willem goes all the way to Mexico in his efforts to track Allyson down. I vaguely remembered there was something about the family going to Mexico and I couldn’t quite remember Allyson’s story at that time. Were they unknowingly within shouting distance of each other at that and other stages of the book. Having reread Just One Day would have helped with that.

Did you end up skimming the first book before you read this, or did you go into this relying on what you could remember from when you read it last year?

 

 

B: I read my review because I couldn’t find Just One Day at first look (of course it turned up pretty much the second I finished Just One Year) and I found that things came back to me as I read but I probably should have tried to skim JOD just to read Allyson and Willem together because there’s certainly not a lot of that here. I’d say that ultimately you did enjoy it a lot more than me and perhaps that’s because you’ve travelled and you’re familiar with some of these places. I’m not and because I was looking for things that weren’t there, what was left wasn’t really that interesting to me. I found Willem not exciting enough to carry the whole book – so much was made of how hot he was and how much of a manwhore he was and it got a bit boring after a while, girls tripping over themselves to be with him. I feel as though Willem’s amnesia stunted the book a little and for me, it didn’t really recover from there. It was always lagging behind – and of course part of that is my own fault, my preconceptions and wants. For me there was none of the emotion and beauty of IIS and WSW.

 

M: If I was going to suggest Forman books to read I would definitely start with If I Stay and Where She Went because I think they work better as a duology and as individual books,. I do think that there were things to like about both of these book too though. A big part of the like for me is the travel and adventure, but I think the thing I liked  most about this book was actually Willem’s growth. He definitely started off being kind of two dimensional (hot and um, hot) but along the way through Just One Year I felt as though we did get to see some development of emotional maturity. One example is the relationship with his mother which I doubt will ever be overly strong but he understands her more now and the way that she is capable of showing her love. Other ways I thought was the way that Willem was able to get some direction in terms of his acting and the way he started to value more of his own past. I really think that we needed to see that emotional growth to be able to believe that he would be ready for that inevitable moment when Allyson knocked on his door.

 

Jump on over to Marg’s blog and read the rest of our conversation….here!

For me, Just One Year was book #71 of 2014

And a 6/10 read

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Just One Day – Gayle Forman

Just One DayJust One Day (Just One Day #1)
Gayle Forman
Random House AU
2013, 369p
Read from my TBR pile

To celebrate her finishing high school, Allyson’s parents presented her with a ticket for a guided tour of Europe, taking in a lot of cities and even more Culture! On the last night of the tour, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Allyson and her friend Melanie are lining up to see a tour-approved  Shakespeare play when they are distracted by street performers hawking their own Shakespeare play, performed a lot more informally. Taken in by one of the performer’s blonde hair and blue eyes, Allyson does something very out of character: she and Melanie ditch their tour-approved Shakespeare play and go searching for the street one.

The next day, the tour is finished and Melanie and Allyson are taking the train to spend some time with Melanie’s cousin before flying out of London and home to America. But the boy from the Shakespeare play the night before is on their train and Allyson somehow finds herself convinced to take a day with him in Paris. Paris was cancelled from the official tour due to strikes and Willem, the Shakespeare boy is promising a whirlwind 24 hours, the likes of which Allyson would never have experienced with the tour. So for the second time, she does something uncharacteristic and she goes with Willem.

Paris is everything she imagined and more. Willem and Allyson (whom he calls Lulu, due to her looking like Louise Brooks) experience the different sides of Paris, not just the tourist traps. They take a tram to a random location, they sleep in a squat. Allyson feels free, a different person to the one she is at home. Everything is perfect – the sizzling chemistry with Willem, a Dutch actor who has been away from home for years, the scratching below the surface, the glimpses they are giving each other of the deep and meaningful. This is travel how it should be done and Allyson can’t help but think of how different it was to the tour.

But then it is over and Willem is gone and Allyson is stranded in a strange city. After Just One Day everything changes and when Allyson goes home and starts college doing pre-med, she finds herself struggling with moving on. She knows she needs to forget, that it was just that – one day out of her life. But she can’t forget Willem and she decides that she has to know what happened to him.

And for that, she has to go back to Paris.

Gayle Forman wrote two of my most favourite books – the phenomenal If I Stay and the follow up, Where She Went. In this book, she does something similar. Just One Day is part one and it is Allyson’s story. Then there’ll be Just One Year which will be Willem’s story. Needless to say, when I heard about these two books, I had only one thought: want now.

Allyson is a good girl – straight A student, dutiful daughter, about to undertake pre-med studies. Despite the fact that she’s 18, her parents and in particular her mother, treat her as though she is about 8. A child who needs their every decision made for them, right down to what clothes she will wear for each season. When they provide her with a ticket for the culture tour of European cities, it’s not something that Allyson enjoys. It’s bland, overly crowded and manufactured – iconic buildings and locations a blur out of the tour bus window as the coordinator recites facts that can be found on Wikipedia. That changes on the last day, when Allyson meets Willem. And decides to do something impulsive. And then something else impulsive.

On one hand, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Allyson’s finding of herself in that time with Willem. She felt like she could be someone else, but maybe who she was being was herself and the person she was at home in America with her parents, wasn’t her. There were risks with what she did, but the payoff for her was huge. The chance to travel as a backpacker type, taking in different parts of a city, not just the one monument it’s famous for, gave her wings. I liked Willem but unfortunately, I didn’t love him. There was plenty about him that remained a mystery and it may take reading Just One Year for me to fully love him. I loved the time the two of them spent in Paris but when Allyson returned home and started college, the tilt of the book shifted.

There were glimpses of genius – Dee, the friend Allyson makes when she throws caution to the wind and takes a Shakespeare class, is pure comedy gold. I also liked the way in which she became friends with Kali, her roommate. It gave the reader glimpses into the way that other people perceive Allyson, and it wasn’t always positive. The person Allyson was at her first semester of university wasn’t really a likable one. All the moping over Willem and what happened and France and then later the drama with her parents, tended to pull me out of the story a bit. It was a bit of a struggle, that section.

Then Allyson decided to back to Paris. And the story was fun and fresh and exciting again. She began to stretch her wings, find her independence and cut the apron strings of her overprotective mother who was projecting her own dreams on to Allyson. She found herself a summer job and began learning French. She got the courage to do the thing she needed to do alone but she also didn’t refuse help along the way like she once would have. She made more friends. She began to get the hang of the whole travelling on a whim thing.

(As an Australian, it’s hard not to be jealous of Europeans. They can visit a dozen different countries for about 50 bucks. Here it takes a long haul plane flight and close to 2k to get most places.)

Just One Day had flashes of brilliance but also some parts that were for me, just not fun to read at all. And not in a good way, where it rips out your heart and hands it to you, but in that bad way where you find yourself getting a bit bored with the plot and cranky at the main character. However I’m still eagerly anticipating Just One Year. I hope that novel will give me the answers I need to say that I am truly satisfied.

8/10

Book #50 of 2013

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