May 7, 2017 • Cee • Reviews

And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz • May 2, 2017 • Razorbill (Penguin)
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Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in!

Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. Nora couldn’t feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they’ve ever been. But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: “Wait! Stop! I’m coming with you!”


I received this book for free from Penguin for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “Stop it, Nora. You have more self-control than this.”

What can go wrong when you have an all-expenses-paid European trip and are headed to the Donegal Colony for Young Artists (DCYA) in Ireland? For Nora, nothing goes her way.


  • In Europe, Nora must create original pieces of art and send back to her grandfather, the famous painter Robert Parker.

Every city she sets foot in, Nora must create an art piece. She has sealed envelopes with prompts from her grandfather that guides her on what to draw. Readers will be disappointed if they think that the narrative spends a lot of time on the art; it does not. It’s breezed by, usually muddled in the arguments between Nora and her mom and Nora’s disappointment of things not going her way. It wasn’t as memorable as I’d like it to be.

  • Nothing ever goes Nora’s way.

Nora’s great adventure throughout Europe becomes a not-so-great one—a disaster in her book. What goes wrong? Her mom decides to tag along on what is supposed to be the best trip of a lifetime. She and her mom constantly bicker and get into fights, where variations of “I never asked you to come with me” is shouted constantly. She can’t do all the things she wanted to do because her mom keeps taking control. Also, nothing works in Nora’s favor like museums being closed or people not looking at her and seeing how ~artistic she is. It’s not the European trip she planned.

  • Nora does and feels things we can all relate to.

Nora is full of insecurities—about herself, about her art. She gets too much in her head, thinking she isn’t good enough and that everybody is better at art than she is. She worries her best friend will ditch her when she finds out the truth. She wants people to notice her, and does things like pretend to draw on the hope that somebody sees how focused and talented she is. It’s what I have experienced and done.

  • Nora and her mom gets into fights.  

Nora and her mom don’t have that great of a relationship. Every conversation ends with frustration and shouting. Sometimes their fights grated on my nerves because I just wanted to move on from those. I wanted to enjoy the art and see the character growths, not witness another argument between an unreasonable mother and a bratty teenager.

  • Things happen fast.

I didn’t ever feel like I was rooted in this world. We spend little time exploring the different cities that Nora visits for her art project from her grandfather. I expected to since I wanted to experience what she sees through her drawing lenses, but nope. Then, when she reaches DYCE, I just didn’t care because the transition wasn’t very smooth.

Should you read And We’re Off? Meh. And We’re Off is nothing to squeal in excitement about. I found it quick and unmemorable. I never felt like I was rooted into this world. Everything that happened wasn’t what I expected it to be. It was just a disappointment, much like Nora’s European trip.


One Response to “REVIEW • Up, Up, and Meh (And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz)”

  1. Kacey says:

    Aw man. I’m still gonna read it. To see for myself about that art.

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