Kate: I want to start this review by saying that I didn’t love Just One Day. I liked it, but I didn’t love it –
Caitlin: While I LOVED it.
Kate: Yes, yes. However, you read an advanced copy. I read a published copy with more typos than is reasonable in a book I paid for. But that issue aside (and I know it’s weird how much that colors my reading experience) I adored the scenes with Willem and Allyson together, but it was a hard slog to get through the early chapters of Allison alone (I suddenly completely understood why Stephenie Meyer started New Moon with just some months typed out on some pages). But I ended up loving Willem’s story and his journey, and so Just One Year really worked for me.
Caitlin: I really loved Just One Year as well. I think I felt the same about the beginning of it as you did about Just One Day. I couldn’t imagine being with just Willem the entire book. But then, I just really loved all the side characters and his life story. His parents! And, I really wasn’t expecting how he went looking for “Lulu.” I think that was my favourite part. The near misses. They killed me. Just killed me.
Kate: Just One Year WAS a lot more stressful in the context of Just One Day because I wanted to shake Willem and say YOU ARE ALMOST THERE KEEP GOING WHY GOD WHYYYYYY?! But those near misses also really highlighted what a good pairing these two books are. Because each of them are ultimately about the individual journeys as characters. It doesn’t matter how close he comes to finding her because maybe he’s not ready to find her yet, you know?
Caitlin: Absolutely! As much as the near misses were physically painful and I was yelling at my book, I was glad he didn’t find her then. Willem had so much more to go through and experience before he could find his Lulu.
I think the best part was everything to do with his parents. We learn why he wanted to spend just one day in Paris, putting off going back to his life. And we see that running away (travelling) is a trait he inherited.
Kate: I loved how complicated his relationship with his mother was. And I appreciated how their grief manifested itself in such different ways that it was an even bigger wedge between them. His mom was one of my favorite characters because she wasn’t at all what Willem expected in a mother, but I also think in some ways she was what he needed. I liked watching them grow closer and come back together.
Caitlin: At first I really didn’t like her but their relationship become one of my favourite things about the book as well. I enjoyed how Willem slowly realized how much she did care and how much she was still involved in his life even when dealing with her own grief.
Though I will say, my absolute favourite, favourite part of the book was when Willem realizes that Lulu didn’t break his heart, but maybe she healed it. And I thought it was then that he really started to deserve finding her.
Kate: I don’t know if it’s a matter of deserving to find her as, you know, he didn’t exactly abandon her or something. He got brutally attacked by racist thugs and lost his memory temporarily!
Caitlin: I meant deserving her emotionally. The same way that Allyson needed to grow and change before she deserved to find him.
Kate: Willem had some of the most complete character growth I’ve read in a long time. I liked how hard he was on himself because he needed to be hard on himself for a while. And I loved that he found his passion through trial and error and by taking huge risks. And and I love loved how, even with how he felt about Lulu, he went out and met people and made friends and went forward in his life. It was especially good to know all of this in the context of how open ended this book was because this wasn’t an ending, really, but a beginning.
Caitlin: I loved the ending! I loved that it was a beginning! I thought I was going to hate it but I thought it was perfect for the characters and I felt so much more complete with the story than I thought it would.
Kate: It was. In fact, I read a blog post in which Gayle Foreman said she thought people were upset by the ending and I was honestly baffled. Because this book took us on a journey and opened a door and it left us to wonder while still having faith in the characters that were built over two books. I loved how real this ending was, and I really believe that everything I want to happen for these characters will.