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Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit

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In the tradition of Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness, Mona Awad's 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, and Marjorie Celona's Y, and set against the shadow of the Vietnam War and the changing social mores of 1970s America, Jessica Raya's hilarious and heartbreaking novel follows the tumultuous coming of age of both a mother and daughter, at a time when womanhood itself was coming of age.

"We're all just one bad decision away from disaster." At fourteen, Robin Fisher is doing her best to ignore her insurance salesman father’s credo, cataloging his tales of calamity under Bad Things that Happen to Other People. But life in 1970s Golden, California, doesn’t prove so golden after her father deserts the family, setting in motion a series of events that results in Robin accidentally setting fire to an abandoned party house. As Robin struggles to keep an eye on her fixation with Bic lighters and her newly independent mother’s own growing pains, she is drawn into the orbit of Carol “Jesus Freak” Closter, a vulnerable yet charismatic classmate whose friendship will challenge Robin in ways she could never have imagined. When Carol finally crosses a line, it’s Robin who must make a dangerous decision of her own.

Sharply comic and deeply moving, Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit illuminates those unforgettable moments in life when everything changes, whether we want it to or not.

384 pages, Paperback

Published June 6, 2017

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About the author

Jessica Raya

1 book7 followers
I was born in Montreal to American parents and raised in Vancouver, Canada. After several years of blissful wandering (Buenos Aires, New York, London...) I've settled at last in San Francisco and found a home at the Castro Writers Coop. My first novel, Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club, was published in four languages under a pseudonym. My second novel, Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit, was published in June 2017 by McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada. My essays and short stories have appeared in magazines and literary journals, and the 2010 essay collection What My Father Gave Me: Daughters Speak.

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5 stars
34 (24%)
4 stars
67 (47%)
3 stars
28 (19%)
2 stars
7 (4%)
1 star
5 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,493 reviews597 followers
April 19, 2020
This book was a delight!!!
The MC was just the right amount of confusion, depression and fun.
It has a Royal Tenenbaums kind of feel to it.
The book was all over the place while never losing the pace or storyline in the process.
Highly recommend it to all YA fans!!!
*******Free copy received through Goodreads giveaway*******
Profile Image for Tonstant Weader.
1,185 reviews66 followers
June 30, 2017
Robin Fisher, the narrator heroine of Jessica Raya’s Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit is telling the story of her Freshman and Sophomore years from the perspective of adulthood. This gives her a detached irony about her past that takes what might be a fraught melodrama, to a coming-of-age story rich in humor and sarcastic wit. Robin is a brunette in a California town so full of blondes it’s named Golden. She’s a bit of a misfit and her best friend Melanie is abandoning her for more popular and far meaner girls.

She falls into friendship with Carol Closter, in part out of compassion and her own isolation and in part because Carol won’t take no for an answer. Carol is one of those people whose religious fanaticism is tinged with mania to the point you’re not sure which came first, religious mania or mental illness, but she is decidedly unbalanced, certain she has a mission, fated to become a saint for her works on earth. Robin is a go-along-to-get-along sort of person who ends up protesting an abortion clinic, not through any belief of her own, but because Carol insists.

Carol is someone I find morally repugnant. She prays for her classmates, and as Robin wisely put it, “I thought praying seemed a lot like judging.” Carol hates them, she fantasizes about them burning in hell. She is also a racist, one who uses racist epithets that even in the 70’s when this takes place were socially unacceptable. She’s intolerant, mean, and violent, even physically assaulting Robin when Robin intervenes when she harasses Robin’s ex-friend Melanie.

The most interesting person in the book is Robin’s mother, Elaine. A typical homemaker whose energy is spent redecorating the house while Dad is off selling insurance. But Dad’s commitment to fatherhood ends when Robin hits the age when teens individuate. The first time the sun does shine out of her father’s whatever, he abandons the family. Just leaves and soon Elaine had to figure out how to keep the electricity on. She finds a job, discovers the boss wants some side benefits, finds another, and eventually finds feminism and, more importantly, finds herself. Perhaps because she is changing so much, she is unaware of all that is going on with Robin.

I like Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit very much. It is a feminist novel without being one bit doctrinaire. When Elaine discovers that all is not well at school, she asks “Is this about a boy?” Robin tells her, “There’s no boy, Why does it always have to be a boy?” Good question, though some of the pressures she faces do have to do with boys, the most important issues are her friends and the loss of friends and of course, her father’s abandonment.

This is a good book, written by an author who takes it on faith that we can understand the story and Robin’s feelings without everything being spelled out for us. She trusts us and I like that a lot.

Profile Image for Nora.
44 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2017
Best way I can think to describe this book is "authentic". I felt like I was reading someone's actual life story, not something written by an author for consumption. Jessica Raya is the perfect story teller. What a feat to tell the story of teenage-hood without being depressing and soul-sucking.
Profile Image for Booksandchinooks (Laurie).
680 reviews72 followers
June 24, 2017
I was undecided about my rating for this book. I wanted to give it 3 and a half stars but since I can't I bumped it up to 4. This book tells the story of a teenage girl named Robin Fisher. Her life is a mess. Near the beginning of the book her father just leaves - no one knows where he is or if he will be back. Robin's mom, Elaine, also has a life that is a mess. Robin is going through some of the normal adolescent issues such as having trouble with friends and her mom but overall she has other major issues going on too. This book takes place in California in the 1970s during the Vietnam war so some of the issues are due to the time period. Overall the book is written well and the characters are well written. I felt sad for Robin that nothing seemed to be going her way, either by her own choices or by circumstances. The ending of the book ties everything up nicely so that is why I went for 4 stars. It is definitely not a happy book. One thing I was confused about was all the criticism of Canada. Robin's mom is from there but I didn't see the relevance to the story.
520 reviews14 followers
June 7, 2017
Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for a free copy of Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit!

You know when a book sits on your to-read shelf for forever? And you desperately want to read it, but you also desperately do not want to have read it? Because then the book will be over, and you won't be able to gaze at it in anticipation anymore?

That was me with Please Proceed to the Nearest Exit. I knew I would love this book. And I was not wrong.

1970s California, a teenage girl protagonist, a dysfunctional family, an intensely Christian friend, politics, sexual assault, bullying, suburbia, the Vietnam war. There is so much that this book covers, and the author does it so well.

The descriptions are brilliant -- that one comparing the sky to an eyelid is so unexpected and vivid, and it keeps on sticking with me. The main character's voice, the dialogue's rhythms, it was all so good.

Go read it.
Profile Image for Ruth Seeley.
249 reviews21 followers
July 9, 2017
An intensely nostalgic read for me, and quite a surprise, since Jessica Raya is not a contemporary. Her protagonist, Robin, is, however, and what set this apart from most coming-of-age novels for me was her ability to capture the essence of growing up in turbulent times. The sexual revolution and the war in Vietnam are not merely the backdrops for Robin's adolescence, they're the fuel that powers much of her angst although she's not consciously aware of this. The novel is permeated with an incredible kindness and compassion for and acceptance of our fellow humans, which I found both startling and lovely. Highly recommended, and a book I might never have heard of it if I hadn't seen an ad for it on Facebook. So there - FB ads aren't all bad. ;)
Profile Image for Chris.
216 reviews
August 12, 2017
I enjoyed the quirky characters in this book: Robin the fourteen year old who is trying to fit in at school and also dealing with her home situation, Carol the very strange friend who Robin struggles to deal with and Robin's mother who is trying to deal with being a single parent and also trying to grow into herself. The very realistic situations the characters find themselves in are, at times humorous, bittersweet, soul searching, and sometimes all at the same time. I think there is something we can all identify with in this humorous, thoughtful novel.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
230 reviews4 followers
February 15, 2020
A sharp coming-of-age novel that made my heart hurt...Raya perfectly captures those moments in a teenage girl's life...when you and your best friend sadly drift apart...when you feel like a little kid as all your friends seemingly rush ahead of you...when you realize that your parents are not perfect; that they have their own secret, adult lives. I devoured this book in just a few days, something that I haven't done in a long, long time.

Song: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", The Beatles
Profile Image for Melina Selverston-scher.
92 reviews3 followers
September 11, 2018
Readers of Maria Semple will love this funny yet meaningful coming of age story set in hellish Californian suburbs during personal and societal upheaval. Made me laugh at our social mores, even while cringing, and the characters have stayed with me. Read this if you like a heavy dose of wry wit in your literature, or if you are interested in pyromaniacs!
100 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2018
I want to start this review by saying that I won a copy of this book thorugh a Goodreads giveaway.

This was a very good novel. I highly enjoyed reading it and recommend it to others to read as well.

The characters are super interesting and you really get to know the ins and outs of many of them especially the main character who you can truly feel for.

The author was able to connect the readers to the characters and to what was happening to them and I find that as a writer, it is a super important aspect to accomplish fully.

There were a lot of surprises that were not predictable which I enjoyed as well, it made you want to keep reading to see what others unexpected things would happen.

It touches a lot of realistic themes that affect many people which I think is great because it gives the readers something else to really attach their attention to what their reading and follow the characters through similar scenarios that they may or may not be going through.

It discusses family issues and relationships, friends and loneliness, school troubles and bullying, the affects of it on young teens as well. It brings a light to many touchy subjects.

All in all, I would definitely recommend people read this novel.
Profile Image for Paula.
188 reviews3 followers
June 29, 2017
Thanks to Goodreads and Penguin Random House Canada for a free copy of this book.
Please Proceed To The Nearest Exit is a beautifully written coming of age story about 14 year old Robin Fisher, growing up in the 70's in California in a dysfunctional family. Her insurance salesman father's credo is "We're all just one bad decision away from disaster". Her mother is trying to find her place in the world after the marriage breaks up and her husband disappears.
Jessica Raya does such a wonderful job of capturing the time period. I felt like I was back in the 70's, growing up listening to the Carpenters.
The characters are well rounded and mostly sympathetic. I became invested in all of them, especially Robin and her mother, Elaine.
There are many devastating moments but they are offset with humour and heartwarming moments as well. 5 stars. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Elizabeth Rains.
Author 1 book3 followers
June 22, 2017
Wow! I just finished this book, and I know I won't be able to stop thinking about it for a very long time. Robin, the protagonist, is quirky and likeable. Her teenage hit and miss journey through her parents' breakup, her initiation to sex, and her efforts to shore up her identity, ring loud with truth. The thoroughly enveloping ending was astute and wonderful. There's humour in this book too. A great read!
128 reviews2 followers
June 13, 2017
A book received through Goodreads giveaways.

A thoroughly enjoyable book which exceeded my expectations as the author was totally unfamiliar to me. Overall the story is straight forward and deals with the realities of everyday life and its challenges in a suburban environment. Fascinating and eccentric characters are realistically developed by the author. Writing style is witty and entertaining throughout.
Profile Image for Jane.
918 reviews9 followers
October 20, 2017
Set in the early 1970s in California, this is the coming of age story of teenager Robin Fisher and the trials and tribulations of teenage life after her father leaves, a fateful night in a party house, and her unlikely friendship with Carol "Jesus Freak" Closter. I enjoyed this novel and was engaged with the story to the unpredictable end. I won an advanced reading copy of thisbook from the published as part of the Goodreads Giveaways program.
June 24, 2017
I devoured this book. It deals with the timeless themes of uncertainty, convictions, and learning to let things go, feelings that we all experience, no matter our age. The characters are funny, sad and oh so relatable. Set in early 70s California, it captures the malaise and uncertainty attributed to youth that we never really grow out of.
Profile Image for Cin.
204 reviews7 followers
May 23, 2017
I enjoyed reading this novel. It reminded me a little bit of the feelings in my teenage years. A pretty insightful book. I told a couple of my friends to read this book.
I received a free ARC from the Goodreads First Reads program. Thank you for sending me this book.
Profile Image for Joan.
42 reviews2 followers
July 25, 2017
An excellent book that follows the life of a 14 year old girl, Robin, for two years of high school. Quietly humorous yet sad just the same. Real life learned the hard way, both at school and at home. It makes one wonder how young people today survive peer pressure.
Profile Image for Andrea MacPherson.
Author 7 books28 followers
August 1, 2017
An excellent debut novel*. The 1970's in California, a teen girl and her mother abandoned by her father, a religion-obsessed teenager, the Vietnam War, Roe v Wade, grief, longing, love.

*There is a previous novel under another name.
7 reviews1 follower
September 14, 2017
What a wonderful foray back to the good and bad times of high school. The narrative moves nicely, the main character is fun, insightful, a real pleasure to follow along. I couldn’t put it down and I doubt you will be able to either. Highly recommend to YA and adult fiction readers.
Profile Image for Kathryn .
122 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2017
Fantastic book. Unique, fresh, original - all of these words fit the bill. Loved it.
393 reviews3 followers
January 4, 2018
A very engaging & witty "period" novel (1970's America, Vietnam War, awakening feminism are the backdrop to this story). Female characters take center stage, well done.
7 reviews
November 17, 2017
Just wonderful. A journey that you share with the characters. Full of love and sadness and laughter. This is an author I will follow.
Profile Image for Nadine.
216 reviews
January 7, 2018
Book club book. Didn’t know it was a YA book, well written, funny and sad. High school sucks, kids are mean and bullies are HORRIBLE human beings.
10 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2018
Highly recommend this book. A Canadian author writes with insight and acuity about American suburban life in the 60's and 70's focusing on a mother and daughter.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
16 reviews2 followers
May 23, 2017
I was given an Advanced Readers Copy by Penguin Random House in return for an honest review which follows:
A fourteen year old Robin Fisher becomes entangled with Carol "Jesus Freak" Closter who is trying to fulfil her purpose in His plan. Her father one night abandons her family and she must care for her mother as she finds herself after her husband has left. What follows is a series of events that include accidentally burning down an abandoned house used for partying, a realization she can not cook, and a fascination with Bic lighters. It all culminates when Carol makes a decision that will alter both hers and Robins lives.
Please proceed to the nearest exit delves into the question on wether choices can make a difference as Robin keeps seeming to make the wrong ones.

The writing had a good pace and the turmoil had me rooting for Robin to pull through it all.
Profile Image for Dna.
630 reviews20 followers
September 26, 2017
So, let me get this right: author is born in Canada -- in amazing Montreal, no less -- earns an education and a council grant...but badmouths Canadians? Me no likey. Fastest abandon in history. Bye.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
235 reviews44 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 13, 2018
DNF'd this book at chapter 3. I just couldn't do it. I wasn't a fan of the writing and the main character was annoying me to no end.
I may pick it up again in the future, but for now i am shelving it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews

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