- Just One Year by Gayle Forman
In this companion novel to Just One Day (BCCB 3/13), Willem’s failure to return to Allyson after their romantic day in Paris is explained: he has been savagely beaten by the skinheads they had escaped from earlier. By the time he leaves the hospital, Allyson is gone, and he must return to his unsatisfactory life in Amsterdam, where he lives alone since his mother moved to India after the death of his father. There he revives a former love affair, only to take off again in the vague hope of repeating his accidental meeting with Allyson, traveling first to Mexico, then India, and finally back to the Netherlands. While this story slots seamlessly into its companion and includes lush descriptions of attractive, off-the-beaten-track locales where all one needs are a change of clothes and a never-ending bank account to find amazing adventures, Willem lacks Allyson’s broad appeal; he’s a bit of hound when it comes to sex, and his quest for someone to care for him comes off as rather immature and whiny. His guy friends want him to be the person he always was, that is, someone [End Page 210] who uses girls for sex then moves on, but Willem’s own introspection has him stuck on Allyson as something more. His encounters with a few wise women, including a theater director he meets in Mexico and his own mother, allow him to find his own story, which turns out to mirror the love stories of his father and his uncle, also melancholy types whose lives were transformed by accidental meetings with perfect women. Willem’s character arc is as intricately crafted as Allyson’s was in her book, but readers will need to have their hopes for him already established from the previous title to feel genuinely invested in this transformed player; fortunately, that won’t be a problem for most Forman readers.