Book Title: Graduates in Wonderland
Author: Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Date Published: May 6th, 2014
Date Read: May 14th, 2014
Cover Love: I do really like the whole compilation of the cover: the fonts of the title, and subtitles, and the background photo (taken by photographer Tamara Staples, who has a blog right here on WordPress!)
Given Synopsis: “ Fast friends since they met at Brown University during their freshman year, Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale vowed to keep in touch after their senior year through in-depth—and brutally honest—weekly e-mails. After graduation, Jess packs up everything she owns and moves to Beijing on a whim, while Rachel heads to New York to work for an art gallery and to figure out her love life. Each spends the next few years tumbling through adulthood and reinventing themselves in various countries, including France, China, and Australia. Through their messages from around the world, they swap tales of teaching classes of military men, running a magazine, and flirting in foreign languages, along with the hard stuff: from harrowing accidents to breakups and breakdowns.
Reminiscent of Sloan Crosley’s essays and Lena Dunham’s Girls, Graduates in Wonderland is an intimate, no-holds-barred portrait of two young women as they embark upon adulthood”
What I’d Add: The synopsis makes it sound more career-focused and living abroad happiness. There’s quite a bit more guy-chasing and musing than those other topics. More on that in a bit.
It’s Sorta Like: I’d disagree with the Sloane Crosley comparison in the blurb. I loved Crosley’s first book – I Was ToldThere’d Be Cake – and this book, while good, is not as intentionally funny/witty/lighthearted as that. It is more akin to Girls: sometimes whiny and frustrating, but overall very relateable.
My Grade: C
One of my best friends LOVES Alice in Wonderland. I remember going to an Alice in Wonderland-themed murder mystery party for one of her birthdays (I was “The Witness,” and the Cheshire Cat did it. I don’t remember who he killed though…some Witness I am). This same best friend is also graduating from college in a month, and the moment I heard that this book would be published I thought of her.
But I had to read it first 😉
Graduates in Wonderland follows Rachel and Jess, best friends from college, as they try to sort out careers, dating lives, and living situations in several different countries. Their situation and emotional turmoil feels very prescient to those of us who (ahem) have graduated college and are still (ahem) figuring things out. Not that any of us here have ANY idea what that is like.
The two post-grads are supportive of each other, witty, and friendly. They experience moments of confusion, joy, and turmoil together in a way that is very relateable and kind. And I think people years before or after their senior year of college can appreciate this friendship and these feelings.
But, and far be it for me to condemn boy-craziness or stick up my nose at forever analyzing the complexities of love (I have a celebrity boyfriend board on Pinterest, for God’s sake), most of the e-mails these friends zip back and forth are about the boys they meet and what it means when he says that or does that, or why can’t I like him as much as he likes me? (and vice versa) Rachel and Jess spend a majority of their expansive e-mail relationship dwelling on these topics. In practice, hearing from your best friend gushing about her guy and asking questions about your love life can be nice. Wonderful, even. But it makes for a repetitive, sometimes cloying read.
And far be it (again) for me to complain about complaining, but there is a lot of despairing about jobs that just don’t feel right and roommates with whom they aren’t very close with anymore. And again, I feel like a hypocrite because, uh, that’s what friends are for: to listen to you whine and complain and still love and support you at the end of the day. But the green envious monster in me goes, “You’re in China/Paris/Australia! STOP COMPLAINING!” Alas, no matter where you are there is something to complain about. But reading about it in several e-mails lost its appeal and relatability (a real word?)
The utter confusion and lack of direction that these women experience is very easy to relate to. But this concept falls a bit flat: a book of hundreds of personal e-mails, detailing the sometimes repetitive road to finding yourself and figuring out who you’d like to be with comes off as a little pushy.