Peyton King has had a horrific five years at secondary school, being the target of bullies and having absolutely no friends. All she had was her art, but even that got made fun of by her peers. Her parents don’t listen though, and it’s only when she starts college (a school that U.K. students go to prior to university, from what I gather) she meets Flick, and finally has a group of friends and even a boyfriend.
Or so it seems.
When things with this group of friends hits a tragic point, Peyton decides to get away from it all. School, her parents who won’t listen to her, and her “friends” who probably weren’t her friends in the first place. She takes her dad’s credit card and hops a plane to Canada, in hopes of finding herself and why she can’t seem to make or keep real friends in her life.
For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I loved how Canada was Peyton’s destination and where most of the book took place. It’s set in a Now and Then format for most of the story – which works so that we understand why Peyton suddenly left her life for a new country with absolutely no plan. There, she meets a group of travelers in a youth hostel who seem to be drawn to her and she quickly connects with them. There are a few snags here and there, due to Peyton’s anxiety, but the group ends up traveling partway across Canada together before heading off to their original destinations.
Peyton’s character portrayal was very real and raw. While she could seem annoying, I felt her pain with her insecurity and anxiety over having and keeping friends. The negative thoughts could easily take over and cause her to push herself away from these new friends she made in Canada, whereas in the past in England the same thoughts caused her to compromise herself and lose herself because she so badly wanted to fit in. To me, she was very realistic and her frustration with her parents was something that I felt was totally valid, as they wouldn’t listen to her or remove her from the bullying situation in secondary school, then to not understand why she felt the need to run away.
WHAT I LIKED
There was a lot to like about this book. For my part, Peyton’s character. Again, while she can seem annoying because she has the same repeated, insecure thoughts… those thoughts are very real for someone who struggles with anxiety. I know because I get the same way – feeling as if I annoy those around me by just being there, wondering if they really like hanging out with me, etc. It’s not pretty, but it’s real and there’s a lot of taking steps forward, but then going two steps back when something triggers your anxiety. So I applaud the portrayal of anxiety in this story, without it being actually a diagnosis, because many people aren’t.
Aside from Peyton, I enjoyed her group of friends in Canada. While some of them were a little underdeveloped (which made it confusing to remember some of them) they were all a fun little group with their own pasts and reasons for traveling. Khalil and Seva were two of my favorites, as they were very sweet and protective of Peyton (especially Seva) but also knew how to have fun and tease their friends.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Obviously, I wasn’t fond of (and that’s putting lightly) of the group of friends Peyton hung out with in her first year of college. Flick only cared about herself and was obsessed with her boyfriend, Eric (who was a jerk), Casey was passive about everything, and Travis was just disgusting. There were two others, I think, but they weren’t mentioned enough to remember. However, Peyton was desperate to have friends and let herself follow what they did which led to drinking, drugs, and lose herself and who she was.
What irked me the most was the sex between Peyton and her boyfriends. I don’t usually complain about this element in young-adult fiction, but for some reason it bothered me with this book. While I get why it’s relevant for Peyton’s past self, I felt like it the description of it happening was a little unnecessary (it wasn’t graphic, but still) whereas things could’ve been more implied. And obviously her relationship with Travis was just toxic to begin with, but again, I get that it was relevant to how she lost herself. What bothered me more was when she engaged in sex with one of the boys she met in Canada (not spoiling who). First of all, they just met and it wasn’t an insta-love kind of meet, nor was there that level of chemistry between them. And secondly, which I feel is more important, is that this dude was at least five years older than her and Peyton is only seventeen.
Despite everything I didn’t like about this book, it was good otherwise. Again, I did enjoy the portrayal of Peyton’s personality dealing with anxiety that was caused by bullying, as well as her journey across Canada with a ragtag group of international travelers. It’s just that one element that I didn’t like that kind of made me give an ugly face at the book and go “why though?” It was also hard to keep track of all the names in each group of friends which made it hard to get into, but it was better after a few chapters.
The ending was very cute and I love how that came about, though I kind of wanted to know more about what happened after the ending. Of course, I do enjoy those endings so I can’t be too mad. In any case, if you enjoy characters with anxiety and learning to find themselves, as well as learning what real friendship is about, I’d recommend this book.
Rating: 3.75 stars