Book | Just Visiting
Genre(s)|Young Adult / Contemporary
Date of Publication| November 17th, 2015
My Rating | 5 STARS
Book(s) – Just Visiting
Feels– ALL THE BEST FRIENDSHIP FEELS.
Tears – None (Was a blissfully happy book!)
I received an e-ARC of this book from the author but this did not affect the review in any way.
Apologies in advance for all the squealing and fangirling you might read in this review. Because Just Visiting is not just a good book, it is a great book. And for me it holds a special importance because I finally saw my culture and my people represented as something other than comedic relief sidekicks, nerds or weirdoes. Here’s the short synopsis of the book I took from Goodreads:
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.
So, this book. Wow.
When I started it, I thought the description about the characters and the girls’ lives and stuff was unneeded and we could’ve just jumped directly into the plot and moved forward. But I soon realized that there wasn’t any direct plot. There are two distinct types of books, I’ve come to realize: Plot & Character. This one was a Characters book.
This book explored the extensive character development of Victoria Reyes, our Mexican protagonist and best friend to Raegan Forrester, poor white girl and other protagonist and best friend to aforementioned Victoria – both of whom want to get out of Charytan, their small town. The book takes a look at the smaller journeys in life, the literal ones that shape one’s lives. Rae and Vic visit colleges, it’s their senior year and they’ve got to make hard choices and do what their heart tells them to do.
Now, here’s all the squealing and fangirling. Rae and Vic were perfectly believable as seventeen year old teenage girls and that was my favourite bit of the entire book. One of my problems is when writers portray us as calm, cool, politely-speaking people because to be honest, I’m the completely opposite. And I connected on so many levels with the two MCs, who also threw in the occasional jab at the stereotypes and the ‘normal’ way of life propagated and built by the society we live in.
“The Sun Also Rises? Spoiler alert: it’s more of Papa Reyes’s favourite genre – White Man Lit.” – Raegan, Just Visiting.
“No one ever calls the guy slutty.” – Victoria, Just Visiting.
The book is unafraid and touches upon several key issues such as poverty, education and some others I don’t want to mention as they’ll give away key plot points. But it does it very well and not in a preachy or info-dump kinda way.
Now, the Indian stuff I’m so excited about.
This book, as I mentioned, has a vast array of diverse characters but being an Indian fangirl in Mumbai, what I adored was the fact that the hero, the ‘hot’ male character wasn’t a white jock / popular kid but a nerdy American-Indian guy who was visiting colleges checking out pre-med courses. [Indian guy, had to be pre-med or engineering, you can’t stray too far from the masses.]
Devarajan Shah, or Dev as he goes by in the book is such a cutie. And very gorgeous too. I loved the fact that the book did not make fun of his interest in comic books; in fact it was his USP! From nerdy t-shirts, to him mentioning Indian food* which had me drooling when I was reading it at night, I loved every aspect of Dev. He wasn’t flawless, and that was pretty darn cool. He made mistakes and then made the effort to fix them.
There were two guys I mashed and thought of as Dev in my head. The one in the red is Ranbir Kapooor, the one in the purple is Imran Khan.
Both are Bollywood actors and very good-looking and I imagine a mixture between the two to be Dev. Hope these pictures help you picture the brilliant being that “Dev fucking Shah” is. [I made an effort to search for pictures where they’re wearing kinda nerdy t-shirts and look like eighteen year olds, so please appreciate, thanks.]
“How do you feel about khandvi and samosas?” – Dev, Just Visiting.
*For the record, samosas are amazing and I love them. If any of you ever come to Mumbai, feel free to drop by and have some. I can’t cook for nuts but I’ll buy you some delicious ones. I thought it might go the conventional Gujju way and offer Dhoklas and Theplas, but I like the touch of diversity and culture here too.
I also loved Victoria’s interests – fashion, where I’m from, unless you’re really good, it’s not a good choice to pursue but I did relate immensely to the part where she has to make choices – to do what she wants, what her family thinks, her friend, what society thinks etc.
The book is very positive: from the stand on slut-shaming, to the diversity being brought out to the forefront, it is a wonderful book. And I think you should give it a go. If only to meet Dev. Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve seen an Indian book boyfriend and you’re gonna be hearing about it – a lot. I was so happy, and a Gujju too, one who eats the spicy food I do, watches and reads similar stuff, was probably brought up with the same values and knows the same things I do about my country.
Thank you, Dahlia Adler for creating Dev. Someone said it, we need diverse books so people like me (POC and LGBTQ+) can see ourselves represented in books. It is so important.
Five stars for this book, and a B, because I’m still under a hangover.
Until next time,