How do I even start this review? I was ecstatic when Judith told me she would send me her ARC of Just One Year, because it was honestly one of my most anticipated books of this year, after I read Just One Day. I honestly thought there'd be no way in hell that I wouldn't like this book. When Judith didn't give it 5 stars, I thought she must be crazy.
I take back my unspoken thought, Judith. You're not crazy.
WHAT was this book? WHY did it go like this? HOW did Gayle Forman think this was a good idea, that this was the book we wanted?
First things first then, and it really pains me to say this, but I didn't like Willem's voice. I know. Your jaws just dropped to the floor. But just honestly. I loved him in Just One Day, he was kind of mysterious and dreamy, and though you didn't know much about him, you desperately wanted more. Well here we get it. It's Willem's point-of-view the whole way through... and it didn't work. It wasn't convincing. I'm not convinced Forman can write a believable male point-of-view, since I also didn't like Adam's voice in Where She Went. The thing is, it was total wish fulfillment bullshit. All Willem thinks and talks about the whole time is Allyson and how much he likes her, how he can't forget about her... I'm sorry, but that's not realistic. He's a guy. He's supposed to have some freaking balls. I just... It wasn't convincing. At all. I wanted substance. But he was just boring. And all the love that I had built up around him in Just One Day was swept away. *sigh*
Added to this personality that didn't really agree with me, the plot... it was so boring. This starts off the day that Willem and Allyson are separated and then covers the year until they meet again. Willem does nothing but pine for Allyson and simultaneously travels to Mexico and India. While in Just One Day, Allyson's year apart clearly showed a story of personal growth, that wasn't really the case for Willem. He didn't grow much, if at all. And it doesn't help that Mexico and India are definitely not high on the list of countries I want to visit. This didn't evoke the kind of wanderlust that Just One Day did, at least for me. But anyway, Willem's experiences in these countries honestly felt like it was just a stall tactic. It was boring. I was just passing the time until he would be reunited with Allyson.
Since this combination of blah main character and blah boring plot wasn't keeping me entertained, I was already in a rather blah mood and difficult to impress. So things that might not have bothered me otherwise started to bother me. It just seemed like this book was trying too hard. For example, Gayle throws in a bunch of Dutch words at random, to... I don't know, emphasize the fact that Willem's Dutch. And while I appreciate the effort and none of it was incorrect or anything, it felt extremely odd as a Dutch reader. Particularly when Willem meets up with his Dutch friends, guys, all in their 20s, and then Broodje suggests making a "borrelhapje". Here's a Dutch lesson: anything ending with -je is the diminutive form of the word. It's cutsey. It's not something that a group of 20 year old guys would ever seriously say. It sounded extremely awkward. And another thing that bothered me is Forman's glaring attempts to be "deep". When you're in a naggy mood, reading one of her books is a bad idea. Each chapter ends with a sentence that has like a double or deeper meaning. But it just annoyed me. I just felt it was so obvious and trying too hard. Just. No. Ugh. Cue the eyerolls.
I couldn't imagine a bigger disappointment.
I've honestly tried, tried so hard to think of something to name that I liked in this book. But I'm coming up completely blank. Honestly. It may not be entirely bad, but right now, my massive disappointment is overshadowing everything. I mean, I named Just One Day one of my all-time favorite books. And now I'm going to try to forget about this book and just pretend JOD was a standalone. This book added nothing. I would take back reading it if I could. That is honestly how I feel right now.
And I'm questioning whether I get along with Gayle Forman's writing after all. I've read the Just One Day and If I Stay duologies, and of those four books I've only liked Just One Day. I'm thinking that was the exception to the rule. And I'm aware this makes me a total black sheep, but you know what? I don't care. Though I do wonder why it just won't work for me.