BOOK REVIEW – Just Visiting by Dahlia AdlerJust Visiting by Dahlia Adler
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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.

“Duh.” He reaches out and flips up the one white curl that hangs in my face.
“Rogue, obviously.”
“Oh, yes. Her. Obviously.”
He gives me a you must be kidding look. “Please tell me you know who Rogue is.”
“Hey, I knew ‘Frak.'” That has to count for something.”

I’m not gonna lie : I spent the first percents bitching about the clichés in Reagan’s life. Let’s see…
✔ She’s a straight-As student (of course she is)
✔ Her parents don’t give a damn about her (of course they don’t) and she’s the one acting like a reasonable adult when it comes to bills, food, well, everything.
✔ She lives in the trailer park of a nowhere town that she can’t wait to leave (with reasons)
✔ She works her ass off at a dinner (I’m beginning to think that every teenager works in a dinner)

Perhaps all these facts don’t scream clichés for you, but after having read many coming of age stories these past months I can’t say that I got an original vibe at first.

But then enters Victoria, the second MC. Victoria, whose parents … Are you ready? Really? Sure? Okay. You’ve been warned. They care about her education and about her in general *GASP* I knoooow. Crazy stuff right? I absolutely loved witnessing Vic’s close relationship with her mum and the way they communicated every day (using ASL, by the way, because her mum is deaf).

Not to mention the original use of alternative POV between the 2 friends, Reagan and Victoria. It’s a nice change from the boy/girl POV we get 99,99% of the time. I say yes to that.

This is probably where Just Visiting stands out from many other young adult novels : indeed Dahlia Adler offers us girl friendship done well : look, Vic and Rae are different in a lot of ways (family, hobbies, boys) but they don’t judge each other and the rare times they do, it feels realistic and natural. They don’t NEED boys to enjoy their time together and they SUPPORT each other whatever happens. Thank you so much for that, Dahlia.

It’s no surprise to me that when Dahlia Adler creates cute boys, they’re really adorable, not the “I’m supposed to be cute but in fact I am a stalker/controlling asshole/prick” we often find.

I mean, Dave Dev : How in the world am I supposed to resist that guy, huh?
✔ He’s a (cute) dork and attends parties with a Battlestar Galactica T-shirt.
✔ His dialogues with Reagan often show a oh-my-god-this-is-awkward-but-funny quality I can’t help but find incredibly appealing.
✔ He doesn’t sugar-coat Reagan’s problems and despite being smitten, he’s still able to call her on her shit when needed.
✔ His shyness doesn’t prevent him for being… driven, let’s say. God. He made me smile so much.

He’s just so freaking cute, I swear! As for the other one…. I won’t say who he is, but awww good guys definitely make for a good change 😀

In my opinion Just Visiting handles several issues in a positive way :
✔ First of all, yay to diversity! I really appreciated how Dahlia Adler dealt with Victoria’s Mexican origins and what it means to be a minority when living in nowhere town, without never belittling her roots but showing pride over them. Plus, Dev is Indian, what I found really refreshing in all this ocean of golden boys we call YA fiction.
Poverty isn’t sugar-coated and all the details in Reagan’s life felt realistic to me.
✔ The sex issues brought real and positive vibes to me : there are talks about protection, consent, and not a once of slut-shaming.

Okay, so at this point you’re probably wondering why my rating isn’t higher. WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED, ANNA? The fact is, I rarely give 3s to books, because most of the time I end despising or loving a story. Truth being told, I kind of hate giving 3s. Is that a thing?

For me, what will draw the line between a book I liked and a book I loved is so personal and linked to my feelings that it’s really difficult to assess the exact reasons. What I can say is this : something was missing for me to be truly involved in the characters’ life.

It could be the characters’ voices that I found pretty juvenile, to be honest, but we’re dealing with teenagers, so perhaps I’m not being fair.

It could be the way the characters keep holding back events from their pasts INCLUDING TO THE READER which has a tendency to annoy me. We’re in their head, dammit! I always fail to understand how people actually manage to censure themselves. Do you ? Because I definitely don’t.

But… To be frank, if this story contains a lot of details that I genuinely liked, I never really cared about the characters, as if they lacked this extra layer to make me interested : in the end, I’m still not sure if I know them enough to understand them and it’s a deal breaker for me. This story, how good it is, won’t stand out in my mind, and in the end, that’s why I can’t rate it higher.

This being said, it could be different for you, so don’t hesitate to try it^^

*The book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review (thank you so much!). It did not, in any case, influence my opinion.*

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