I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I really liked Nina Hill and expected a similar story for this one, but a mother/daughter growth story worked and really made me happy to read.
Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.
Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.
For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?
For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.
Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.
Jessica is an overworked single mother who’s been balancing her daughter and her job but letting her job win. Emily reminded me a lot of myself; an in-between person who isn’t fully sure what she’s capable of doing but also wants the space to figure it out for herself. Jessica is involved in Emily’s life despite Emily’s want for her to move away from that space and the tension between them and their relationship is palatable from the beginning.
As they journey to different colleges on this weekend tour of the East Coast, not only do Jessica and Emily find out more about themselves, but they find out more about each other. It’s obvious that Jessica and Emily didn’t have that Lorelai/Rory bond. In fact, it seemed on the verge of blowing up with every snarky comment or eye roll.
But I loved the gradual growth between them. Frankly, I was expecting there to be some bigger adventure that would take Jessica and Emily’s experiences to get out of, but it didn’t turn out this way. It was a breezy and funny coming-of-age story (and I’m talking about coming-of-age for everyone) and Jessica and Emily do end up with a better relationship at the end.
I was a little annoyed that Jessica and Emily had this rapport that seemed on the brink of tearing, but then you would read their inner thoughts (because the book is written in dual POV) and want for them to just say what they’re feeling. However, having been a teenager with a tough relationship with their mom, I understood why there were less said than felt.
I wasn’t a fan of all the stuff happening around Jessica and Emily. For example, a school admissions scandal. I’m assuming Abbi Waxman is bringing this up because of the scandals that happened in 2019 with a very prominent school in LA and Abbi being from LA probably wanted to talk about it. The way it was set up felt a bit abrupt and pulled from nowhere. I wished there was a bit more context at the beginning of the novel (and perhaps something Emily is hiding more from Jessica) to bring that scandal into full view by the end. However, there was some interesting things that came out of that part of the book, which I really liked especially the parts discussing how important college is to kids and their parents.
Overall, this was a fun read and reading it on audiobook with the two POVs was excellent. There was a lot of emotions that the narrator put into her characters and it showed when you listen, so highly recommend it if you can get a copy of the audiobook somewhere.
I received a copy of this book from Berkley. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.