A trip around Europe becomes fraught for a group of five recent high school graduates.
Aubrey, an American girl, meticulously plans a trip from Paris to Barcelona with four close friends: her Jewish boyfriend, Jonah; her bestie, Rae, who is a lesbian; Spanish-born but American-raised Gabe; and Clara, who is questioning her sexuality. They will soon be going their separate ways to attend university in different countries after years of being a tightknit group. Beginning in London, where they attended the London American School together, the tale unspools in the third person, shifting between Aubrey’s and Rae’s perspectives. The classmates travel to various destinations via railway, and gradually their awe and excitement give way to fatigue and frustration with one another. As young adults on the cusp of adulthood, they begin to fretfully ponder their futures and question their changing relationships and impending separation. The atmospheric descriptions of the places they visit (and drink in), such as Amsterdam, Prague, and Florence, and the nuanced characterizations lend expansiveness to a plot that might otherwise have become a simple coming-of-age romance. The book assumes a white default.
Despite the bland title, this novel nimbly uses the almost obligatory middle-class post-graduation backpacking trip as a transformative odyssey of self-discovery. (Fiction. 13-18)