Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Just Visiting / Dahlia Adler

TITLE: Just Visiting
AUTHOR: Dahlia Adler
PUBLISHER: Spencer Hill Contemporary
AVAILABILITY: Amazon, Barnes & Noble



GENRE
Young Adult - Contemporary

REVIEW
Just Visiting is told from the first person POVs of two best friends, Rae and Vic, who are both eager to get out of their small Kansas town, albeit for different reasons. Living in a trailer park with a freeloading mom who doesn't seem to give a lick about her, Rae yearns to escape poverty and start fresh at college. Vic, meanwhile, dreams of being a fashion designer and hopes that in college, her Mexican heritage won't make her stand out. In their last year of high school, Rae and Vic go on a series of college visits together, but eventually learn that their wildly diverging paths and the secrets they've kept from each other might tear them apart.

First of all, can I just say how amazing it is to read a book that's all about a female friendship? Rae and Vic's relationship is the heart and soul of the novel, and the two go through many ups and downs and twists and turns... as many as any romantic couple. There are plenty of stories out there about male friendships, but I think this is the first time I've read a book that's all about a female friendship, and damn, it was awesome! That isn't to say there isn't romance in the book. During the first college visit, Rae meets an adorkable Indian American boy named Dev (who introduces himself as Dave in an effort to make his Indian-ness stand out less... boy, can I relate!) and finds herself falling for him despite herself. The romance doesn't take up a lot of page-time, but when it's present, it sure packs a punch, whether the two are making adorkably awkward conversations or dealing with the fallout of their decisions. 

Anyway, Just Visiting is one of those books I almost didn't want to review because I knew that, no matter how much I gush, I won't do it justice (especially since I don't want to give out any spoilers, but a lot of the stuff I love comes after the twists!). Rae and Vic are both amazing protagonists (and they really are co-protagonists - both have equal prominence) with kickass voices. Both are super sarcastic (which made me laugh) and strong-willed, and it's easy to see why they'd be best friends... and why their fire-and-fire combo would eventually clash. The writing is truly amazing - quick-witted and clever in some places, evocative and poignant in others. And totally addictive. Once, I forgot to eat because I was too busy reading. Which is kind of ironic because I kept reading about the bacon tuna melts Rae serves at the diner she works at. Every scene comes to life on the page and just feels... real.

I also loved the diversity in this book -- not just racial (through a Mexican co-protagonist, and Indian love interest for Rae, and an Asian possible love interest for Vic) -- but socioeconomic as well. As a white girl in America, Rae possesses a certain degree of racial privilege, but at the same time faces a lot of hardships that come with being poor. Because she has to work and count every penny -- not to mention deal with a mom who not only won't support her, but barely seems to care that she exists -- she has to grow up a lot faster than most teenagers would. Which also means she has to deal with a lot of adult issues she's sorely unprepared for. It's not a perspective that's often explored, and it was fascinating to read.

Just Visiting alternates between light-hearted teen fun and profound explorations of human emotion... how the past can haunt you, how difficult it can be to figure out what you want. Being a teenager is a tumultuous time, and Adler perfectly captures it on the page through her two protagonists. I tore through this book and loved every moment. I was pretty sure I'd enjoy it before I started, but I found myself unexpectedly addicted (like I said, I forgot to eat at one point). And I came out of it with that satisfying feeling of, "Damn, that was a good book!"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She's the author of the Daylight Falls duology, the upcoming Just Visiting, and Last Will and Testament, as well as over five billion tweets as @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.



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