Review: Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Just Visiting by Dahlia AdlerJust Visiting by Dahlia Adler
Published by Spencer Hill on November 17, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 348
Format: eARC
Source: Author
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five-stars

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.

Dahlia Adler is my friend. Yadda yadda yadda. I’ve read all of Dahlia’s books to date, and I’ll probably keep reading all of them because they’re good. With each successive book, I’m pretty sure I’ve commented on how she just keeps improving as an author and stepping up her game. That thing, again. Seriously, Dahlia once again totally surprised me and Just Visiting is my favorite of her novels to date. Honestly, I love it so much that I worry about how on earth she could possibly ever top it.

If you’re reading my blog, I’m assuming that you’re a bit acquainted with Dahlia on Twitter and if you’re not you should be because she’s great. This book is the most like Dahlia on Twitter, if that makes any fucking sense to anyone but me. What I mean is that this book is bantery and funny and silly and shippy and also about serious issues close to Dahlia’s heart. Much as I’ve enjoyed every book Dahlia’s written, THIS is exactly what I wanted without knowing quite exactly what I wanted. Paragraph two and this is already a mess. Oh man.

gif i'm a mess right now

As everyone knows, I am all about the shippy feels. Most of the books I love, I love for ship because those are the things that tend to REALLY make me feel something. When I’m feeling MORE than just shippy feels, that’s a damn good sign. Just Visiting also hit me in the friendship feels and the family feels and basically I was sort of a mess. I got a bit glassy eyed and had to go yell a bit at one point, and at the end of the book I had a goofy smile on my face and still glassy eyes because I was overrun with emotions okay.

gif too many emotions

I’m going to try to pull it together and be a bit more serious and critical here. Just Visiting looks at the period in Reagan and Victoria’s lives where they’re visiting colleges to try to decide where they want to go the next year. I am so freaking excited that college is becoming less forbidden in fiction, because it’s such a ripe area for it. Anyway, college visits are such a great topic for a YA novel, because there’s so much planning for the future and it feels like trying on adulthood and the potential to escape.

Rae just wants to get out of her trailer park and away from her parents. Vic dreams of joining a sorority and being somewhere where being Mexican won’t make her “exotic.” I love the little touches like Vic’s temporary determination to go by Tori. Planning for college is, for many (like past me), all about the chance to reinvent yourself after the adolescent shitstorm that was high school. College visits are all about the chance to see the campus and try to find the place that feels right in some magic indefinable way.

gif hogwarts is my home
Not quite like that, unfortunately.

That said, Just Visiting very consciously doesn’t put forth college as the one true path for everyone. Vic is torn between a whole lot of different paths. Her brother went to the peace corps after high school let out. Freckles, the sweet boy who works at Joe’s Diner with Rae, attends the local community college. Just Visiting is about finding what works for you, even if it’s not the obvious, traditional path. As you might expect from Dahlia, it’s a very not shamey book. <3

Clearly, Just Visiting is also very much a book about friendship. Vic and Rae are central to each other’s lives and their relationship is the most important one in the whole book. Much as I love ships, a good friendship is so much more important. At the start, Rae and Vic seem friends by necessity more than any real commonality or closeness. They’re best friends, but there’s a reserve there. They keep so much of themselves secret that they’re not entirely sure of one another. These college visits and plans for the following year will either make or break their friendship and just leave me here with my friendship feels, please.

gif friendship glee

Though the book mostly remains fluffy feeling, there are some definite real life gut punches. Rae’s been dealt a really crap hand. Her mom seems to be addicted to shopping and appearances, preferring to get a manicure or order As Seen on TV shit instead of paying the electric bill. Rae gets points docked on assignments for school because she doesn’t have a computer to type them out as required. Despite working full time to earn gas money (and money to help with the bills), Rae still maintains top grades. She’s worked so fucking hard for absolutely everything and I want to give her a hug.

Vic’s got a much better family life than Rae. She loves her parents, her grandparents, and her brother. She’s also got some things she’s trying to work through, even though her life is much better on the surface. Everyone’s got shit to deal with. Where Rae is really driven and sure of what to do (which is a problem sometimes because she sometimes doesn’t think she deserves to go where she wants), Vic’s not at all sure what she wants to do with her life. Over the course of the book, she’s obsessed first with being in a sorority and then with fashion design. At the end, she comes up with a new idea. I love this because it’s so realistic and very much that time period.

gif i need a moment glee

Okay, I’ve been all serious and focused so now I’m going to yell about the ship and you cannot stop me. At the first college visit, Rae meets this adorable tall Indian boy, Dave, at a campus map while they’re both looking for the library. It is a match made in nerd heaven. They banter like nobody’s business and I ship it so hard even though it is often a ship of pain. (WHY DAHLIA WHY) Rae flirts by insulting him when she’s totally into him and no I totally do not relate to this at all. THEY ARE THE CUTEST AND I LOVE THEM MY PRECIOUSES.

gif cute indian boy

Also, because it’s a Dahlia book, you can bet that it’s sex positive, very much involves consent on both parts for any sexy activities, and totally has sexy bits. There’s also a lot about birth control that is very important. This book stands against a lot of things (slut-shaming, racism, etc), but without feeling preachy.

I fucking love this book. I pre-ordered my own lovely hard copy, and you all should to.

Favorite Quote:

“You’re what, seventeen?” I nod miserably. “That’s what life is at seventeen. You make mistakes, you learn from them, you grow up. No one expects you to be perfect or know exactly what you want. There’s a reason college students get until the end of sophomore year to pick a major.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif big yes

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