BOOK REVIEW: “Graduates In Wonderland”

It is such a wonderful occasion to find a book that fits you so perfectly. I think it’s important for a reader to find that one book that just meshed so well with what they were going through or a voice that sticks out as quite similar to their own. When “Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults)” was pitched to LD, I must admit, the title did stand out to me. Not only was I about to graduate, but tying in my love for the world of Wonderland just felt like it was meant to be.

“Graduates In Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults”, by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale, pictured above, follows the exciting, international post-grad life for the real life best friends. The story is told through emails as the friends keep in touch from opposite ends of the world. A wonderfully eclectic group of topics are sprinkled in these e-mails: from love both found and lost, to language barriers, to terrible bosses. It’s so realistic to the twenty-something lifestyle upon graduation. The most essential part of this is the realness in the tone which is spoken by both women as they describe their daily lives. I found myself marking pages where I could hear the thick sarcasm being expressed, as well as the dry sense of humor. In the very first letter Rachel writes to Jess, she is describing her neighbor with a famous father: “To protect their privacy let’s call the father Jilly Boel. The boyfriend keeps saying, ‘Nobody cares that your father is Jilly Boel!’ I keep wanting to yell back, “I do! Sing me a song!” Jess also begins with a comparison of classes she  actually took at Brown compared to what she should have taken for her Beijing experience, including “Six Mandarin Phrases That Mean, ‘No, thank you, I don’t eat that.” I was on an airplane when I started this book and vividly remember cackling while reading this. I knew in this moment that I was going to both thoroughly enjoy, and eerily relate to these voices.  Both women describe a “master list” in search for “The One” man who is going to sweep them off their feet, and it is so intriguing how the love they are both searching for ties in with the traveling and working in these foreign cities (Beijing, Paris, Melbourne).

Another crucial aspect of “Graduates in Wonderland” is the brutal honesty between Jess and Rachel. No matter what opinion they were giving to the other, it was refreshing to know that through all of the ups and downs which they narrated to each other, there was no judgement being passed. This is highlighted in many scenes, one of which is when Rachel decides to have an innocent dinner with a neighbor she had typically only seen in passing. Jess’ response: “I don’t know what you want. A man is offering to cook for you every night!He’s offering you massages! This could be great material for your book: A French cabana boy waits for a nice American girl on her doorstep—and kills her. This is your warning. Lock your doors.” There are a lot of hypothetical tossed between the two, which is the underrated aspect of the freshly graduated life. It’s the reality that is so frustrating at first, but then you take a step back and realize you can shape your life exactly how you want it to be. Sometimes a hypothetical can turn into a reality, which happens multiple times in this book. It’s inspiring to read about two fun, quirky women who step outside of their boundaries, following their hearts, and end up completely happy.

I graduated from college last month and immediately read this book with each spare moment I had (amongst pure chaos might I add). It was so comforting to me to have this as the narrative for that time period. I was taking on job interviews, panicking about possibly not finding a job, switching plans last minute, and realizing I would be leaving a place I called home for the past four years. Columbia, Missouri has been my independence from the central Illinois life I had led for 18 years. It was my sense of really finding me, and moving back home had me thinking that I would lose that. This book truly highlighted the wanderlust I have always had inside of me. Jess and Rachel moved onto new places, trying out many different relationships, jobs, and ways of finding out who they truly were. To me, this book is so perfect for those who have, or are going to, experience the post-grad life. It’s an exhilarating time, and these two have definitely given readers an excellent insight into the realities of it.

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