When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .
The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.
In Just One Day, we read the story of Allyson, aka ‘Lulu’, who has an amazing day in Paris with the Dutch Willem. But the next morning, she wakes up all alone, Willem is nowhere to be found. Throughout the rest of the book, Allyson tries to both forget and find Willem, and at the end of the book we see that she does. But what has Willem done in that year? The answer to that question will be answered in Just One Year, the same story but from Willem’s point of view. We read of his journey to find his ‘Lulu’ again, of his travels and his acting. Of his friends, his (potential) lovers, and of his parents. If you haven’t read Just One Day, this review might have some minor spoilers.
I loved Just One Day, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. But like so many other sequels, I postponed buying/reading Just One Year for a while. Not as long as normally, sometimes it takes me months or even years to read the following book in a series, but this time it only took me about five/six months. Still, that’s quite a while, but for me it’s short! Like I probably said before, I am not a huge fan of romance books, but JOD and JOY both grabbed me right from the start. Maybe it was the fact that Willem is Dutch, like me, and all the mentions of Dutch things, such as hagelslag, broodjes and a ‘white tower that looks like a giant penis’. But of course, I just liked way the story was written as well!
I liked all the traveling. Willem loves traveling, and he hates being stuck in one place for too long. But due to certain circumstances he stays in Amsterdam and/or Utrecht for at least half of the book. The other half, he is traveling to Mexico, to Mumbai, and not entirely without reason. He is trying to find his Lulu, but he doesn’t remember her real name. I personally thought all the Dutch things were very well written, because it happens a lot that when someone wants to show that a person is Dutch and they do it all wrong (by making them sound German mostly). This book actually corrects that (there have been a couple of times where Willem told people that he’s Dutch, not German). A tiny pet peeve of mine, is that they kept calling the Netherlands ‘Holland’. Yes, that might be a bit easier to type than ‘The Netherlands’ the entire time, but Holland really is just two of the provinces (North and South Holland).
We meet a lot of new characters in this book, including some of Willem’s friends. Robert-Jan, aka Broodje (sandwich) was my favourite. He’s Willem’s best friend, and he’s just really awesome. In JOD he is described as a Hobbit, and that is what I pictured the entire time I read JOY; a Dutch hobbit named Broodje. There is also Henk and W, who is dating Lien, and a lot of other Dutch characters. All the Dutch names just made me incredibly happy, and also made me laugh out loud because it made me wonder how non-Dutch people were pronouncing them in their heads. There are also some of Willem’s ex girlfriends (or well, not sure if they were really girlfriends or just ‘flings’) and there was one in particular which just made me cringe. And there are the people that Willem meets on his new journeys, including Kate, which is my favourite. She helped him near the end of the book, for the play in het Vondelpark, where Allyson went to see him near the end of JOD.
“Have you been gone for so long you’ve forgotten how to drink and drive a bike? How can you even call yourself Dutch anymore?”
I have to admit, I am a bit jealous of Willem, because he’s able to just travel anywhere he wants, whenever he wants. I wish I could do that sometimes, just pack a bag with just some clothes, money, a toothbrush, my phone, maybe a notebook and a camera, and just randomly pick a place to go to. Because that is what Willem was doing – or was planning on doing – at the beginning of the book. Though he is a traveler, he spends at least half of the story in the Netherlands, mostly in Amsterdam or Utrecht, but that didn’t bother me a lot, because I just loved reading about my country from the perspective of someone who wasn’t from here (I mean the author, of course). I have to say it again, Gayle Forman did a great job.
The writing in JOY was very good, but I hadn’t expected anything else. I loved JOD and If I Stay (still need to read Where She Went though, oops). It was so well written, that it took me less than twelve hours to finish the book, something I haven’t had in a while, I think.
I have to say, there weren’t really things I disliked about this book, apart from the fact that sometimes Allyson and Willem were so close to seeing each other again, and then they didn’t. It actually made me a bit sad, haha. Also, the ending was quite disappointing, in my opinion (and I think almost everyone who’s read the book agrees with me). Because (spoiler? I think), it ends just the same as Just One Day, with them finding each other again in Amsterdam and that’s it. End of story. But, in answer to that, Gayle Forman has written ‘Just One Night‘ a 40 page novella about what happens after this book, and I am reading it right now!
I loved Just One Year, absolutely loved it. Together with the first book, I think this series made me want to read more (well written) romance books. Yes, you heard it right, I am starting to like romance more, all thanks to Willem and Allyson (even though their relationship was kind of insta-love, which is still something I despise). If you want to read a nice story about love, one that is not a trilogy, you should definitely read JustOne Day and Just One Year!