I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on November 17th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.
Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
As awesome as Dahlia is as a person and a Twitter presence, it makes me so happy to confidently say that I don’t think she can write a book I wouldn’t like. With Just Visiting as a fourth success in my book, I am a very happy bookworm indeed. This college visit road trip novel, with its excellent focus on friendship, put a definite smile on my face.
Just Visiting tells the adventures of Reagan and Victoria – two best friends in their last year of high school, going out on college visits, desperate to get out of their way-too-small town. It’s a story about friendship, family, romance, and finding (and earning) your independence. In addition, there’s so much diversity that there will be something for everyone to relate to (or be enlightened by) – social class, disabilities, race, it’s basically all there. I especially loved seeing Victoria’s interactions with her deaf mother. Loved that her family felt so normal!
Now, I should say upfront that this book isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and happy times. Reagan has been dealt a pretty shitty hand in life, and some of the stuff she has to go through made me legit so uncomfortable and tense. Her family situation is obviously not the best. Her mother is a total nightmare. The betrayal of her ex-boyfriend turned out to be about 20 million times worse than I suspected it would be and almost made me sick to my stomach. But all that just served to make me feel involved in her life and connected to her. I was right there with her, hoping for her to break free and find happiness, because goddammit she deserves it. Her character is so fleshed out and real that even though she comes from a totally different walk of life than me, I felt that connection anyway. Her distant behavior and negativity might ward off some readers, but it’s easy to see the reasons for it.
Luckily, on their adventures, Reagan meets a certain guy who manages to bring some lightness and happiness into her world. Dave is super geeky, but completely lovable. They quickly fall into an easy banter and there’s an undeniable attraction between them. I very quickly started bouncing up and down, chanting for a kiss, but I was denied for quite some time. They were just so cute together! Then, you know, there had to be a modicum of drama because Reagan is not uncomplicated. And the result was that I shipped it a bit… less. The drama is real, and even a good guy like Dave logically would get pissed, but I dunno. My happy feels fizzled out a little.
Victoria’s almost the polar opposite to Reagan. She has a happy family, she has a clear goal in life (fashion designing), and her general disposition is a positive one. She’s vivacious and her voice is fierce, and she definitely helps to balance out Reagan. And though it seems like compared to her biffle, Victoria has everything figured out, she’s still finding herself this year too – in life and in love. I found it a bit harder to connect to Victoria, to be honest, because of her sheer extroverted nature and her casual hook ups (which is fine, but not something I can personally identify with). Incidentally, she does get a sweet ship in the end, but not one that gave me a billion feels.
However, the focus of this book is on friendship, and that was excellent. I mean, I appreciate romantic feels whenever I can get them, but the fact that neither of these ships were my top ships of all time did not really take away from the brilliance of the book. The friendship and support between Victoria and Reagan is truly beautiful. It isn’t uncomplicated, as they keep quite a few more secrets from each other than you would expect from best friends, but they both invest time, effort, and emotion into the relationship. That’s freaking beautiful to see.
The other thing that I will praise endlessly about this book is the absolute realism. The college visits were so nostalgic to me – it felt like I was walking across campuses again myself. The worries about majors and finding the right place for you were also extremely relatable. It’s so easy for communities to latch onto one walk of life as being the right one – the expected one – for everyone, and I love that Just Visiting makes it clear how many options are out there.
Now the fact that this book didn’t get a perfect rating from me is not something that I can pin down to a concrete reason. While I love the focus on friendship – one that is so healthy and positive – and I feel like the book makes some great points about growing up, it didn’t fully resonate with my heart. It might be because of how the romance kind of fizzled out towards the end for me, or it might be because the ending skipped over what I felt would be crucial moments, decisions, and conversations between Reagan and Victoria. But I feel like Just Visiting is a great, entertaining read anyway – and one important to the YA readersphere: we need more positive female friendships like this one.