Ms. Benincasa is the author of two YA novels and one deeply honest and very entertaining memoir. This latest novel follows three high school sophomores and one very young teacher on a high school trip to DC. My local library somehow ignored the release date (November 3), and so yesterday I got told my hold notice was up. This book was so entertaining that I started it while working out this morning and didn’t end up putting it down (for real) until I finished it three hours later.
The book moves pretty quickly – the trip to DC is only two nights and three days long, so usually there wouldn’t be a ton of time to build the characters, and yet Ms. Benincasa manages to do just that. There are at least five, and more like ten characters that we are interested in learning more about, and we get, not the whole picture, but enough to not have them merge together in a blur of teenager-ness.
The main young teacher is very idealistic, and also romantically interested in the other chaperone. Every other chapter covers her being either a bit naïve about the students in her care, or worried about her interactions with her co-chaperone. Then there is a trio of sophomore girls whose story is covered in the in between chapters, seeking to have a little bit of extra fun while on their vacation. The convention of alternating chapters could have been a bit confusing, or taken the reader out of the story, but it works here.
There are moments when I was genuinely surprised at what happened, which, considering this isn’t a mystery novel, was a pleasant twist. And the characters weren’t caricatures, which could be easy enough to do with the storyline. Some were sexually experienced; some weren’t. Some were more politically aware and socially conscious; some weren’t. Not everyone was white, and not everyone was straight.
I’m pretty sure I’m always going to enjoy what Ms. Benincasa writes, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.