Colby and Bev have been best friends forever. They’ve also been planning for what seems like forever to spend a year traveling around Europe when they graduate high school. Bev also has a band with two other girls called The Disenchantments. The group isn’t very good, but the girls have still managed to cobble together a small tour around tiny towns in California and up the West Coast right after graduation. The plan is for them to have Colby drive them to their tour dates in his uncle’s old VW bus, after which they’ll drop off band member Meg to college in Oregon, and then they’ll return to San Francisco, where Bev and Colby can get ready to hit Europe.
But then Colby is devastated and confused to find out on the first day of their trip that Bev has applied to college and gotten accepted at a prestigious art school, where she’ll start in the fall. He is blindsided, and he’s angry not only that Bev has bailed on their plan, but that she could have kept a secret from him. Don’t they know everything about each other? Aren’t they best friends? And as the trip unfolds, he finds out she has kept more from him over the years.
Colby narrates this novel, and readers can’t help but feel angry right along with him. As the four friends travel between podunk towns and stay in dive motels, Bev refuses to talk to him about why she changed plans. He vacillates between anger and tenderness toward the girl he has loved for years.
As the trip progresses, Colby thinks more about his friendship with Bev and faces questions he has about his parents. The teens all have opportunities to ponder where they’ve been and where they all of a sudden are going, as life moves on from high school to the wide-open world of adulthood.
Nina LaCour digs deep into her characters and lets them live and breathe on the page. Their struggles and interactions feel very real and would resonate with teens getting ready to leave high school. I was, however, disenchanted with the frequent harsh language that seemed rather unnecessary to me. I’m sure, yes, it’s “true to life,” but I just didn’t need to read that much. Despite that drawback, I found myself moved and impressed by her writing by the end of the novel.
Rated: High, for probably about 20 uses of strong language (I quit counting), as well as other bad language. There is also some talk of sex and a sex scene that is mildly descriptive for a couple of paragraphs.