Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Source/Format: Author || e-galley
[I received this book from the author. This in no way affects the content of my review.]
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. 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.
If you’re anything like me as a reader, you’ll like Just Visiting. It is a recent addition to the group of YA contemporaries that feature excellent female friendships, and I’m personally thrilled to be able to say that it’s really good! Adler’s portrayal of friendship is incredibly spot on – fun and frank, with no hesitation to show the natural ups and downs as the relationship grows. (It really isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, even when you love your friend dearly!) But her story is not just about these two friends. It’s about their struggle to figure out what they want to do after high school, learning more about themselves and yes, there’s a bit of romance thrown in too.
It’s so rare to find an author who knows how to capture relationship dynamics perfectly, but Dahlia Adler certainly has a knack for it. Friendship, romance, family, enmity, attraction – all of these relationships can be found in Just Visiting. They were all written to be complicated, and their complexity made them seem real to me, and I loved that. I was happy to go along for the ride, watching as Adler explored and exposed different parts of these relationships to share with us. The highlight, of course, is watching Reagan and Victoria’s friendship grow as both girls do. They go through some tough times (balanced out by the fun they have together), and they definitely fight. But their friendship just gets stronger when faced with adversity, and I really, really loved that.
Readers will also appreciate how Adler shows the struggle of two teen girls trying to figure out what they’d like to do with their lives after high school. There are a lot of options out there, and I like that this story explored many alternatives. Add to that the college visits (which were fascinating to me), the diverse cast of characters, and a surprisingly dramatic turn of events, and Just Visiting gets even better. I really liked this one, and definitely think others will too!
After reading Just Visiting, I had a chat with Rachel of Hello, Chelly and it surprised her to learn that I had never gone on college visits ever. With that in mind, and with the desire to share a little bit of my own thoughts about college, I wanted to share my own college story with all of you!
Confession: I never had to do college visits.
In a big way, this had a lot to do with distance. The bigger schools were all in Manila, an island that requires a 45-minute plane ride from my hometown of Bacolod. There was not enough time (or funds) for school visits. And sure, there might have been some program designed to allow high school seniors to visit the schools the way that Reagan and Victoria did (though I wasn’t aware of it, mind you). But for the most part, representatives from the universities would visit schools all over the Philippines to talk about their alma maters.
Confession: This never really concerned me.
When I was a senior in high school, there were really only three schools that were options for my college education: Ateneo de Manila University (my first choice, and my alma mater!), De La Salle University (where my parents and most of my dad’s side of the family went to college!) and University of Asia & the Pacific (where my sisters went to college!).
I ran with it, submitting three sets of applications and taking three different entrance examinations, not even stopping to think about whether or not these places (and courses) were truly what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have a plan back then, nor did I really have any sense of what direction my life would take. I decided that it would be easiest to just go with the flow, take others’ opinions into account and then hopefully, magically, I would suddenly know what to do.
Confession: I had never really thought about college, or life after college.
I had no plans. I wasn’t like a lot of the college freshmen I encountered – those who were armed with a four year plan to jumpstart their adult lives, those who were ready to reinvent themselves for an entirely new experience, those who were ready to just enjoy their lives and coast through college. I had nothing going for me but my family’s expectations, my love of learning and the idea that this was the right thing to do. I’ll save you the long sob story (which includes an intensely crazy first semester) but with thanks to some really excellent people – my parents, my friends and some of my teachers – I found my way.
I don’t regret going to college and getting my degree; in fact, I consider myself lucky to have been given the gift of a great education. What I do regret, however, is the fact that I never once questioned my options. I could have studied in another country. I could have taken a gap year to travel. I could have volunteered for a year. I could have taken time off to really think about what I wanted out of life. Even though I know I would have eventually wound up in college at some point, I would have been equipped with more experience, more insight into myself and what I really saw in my future. It would definitely have made my own college experience a whole lot less terrifying and confusing; it would have grounded me in purpose with an actual goal.
Still, I can’t say college wasn’t a life-changing experience. I learned plenty, in the classroom and outside it. And I certainly don’t regret the relationships I formed. (Fun fact: I met my now husband when I was a freshman in college! And I’m still very close with my roommates for all four years of my college life.) All in all, in spite of the fact that I might not have chosen for it to go the way it went, college turned out to be a turning point, a good one, and for that, I will always look back at those years with affection.