Julia and Cass had been planning a summer road trip from Chicago to California in Julia's car, so Cass decides to do the trip solo. On bicycle.
The story is told in alternating Then and Now chapters. 'Now' is the end of summer, after her bicycle adventure, with Cass having returned to help with the musical that will open when school starts in September. 'Then' is before and during the big trip. In Cass's coming-of-age year, she learns not to denigrate the value of friendship by saying things like "we were just friends." She kisses a girl for the first time. And she learns to give people a second chance.
The nuanced cast of characters is a strong appeal element here. And then there is the really wacky musical, along the lines of the one in Will Grayson, Will Grayson (David Levithan and John Green) but with lots of fake blood. Michelle from my book group, who sent me this link to The Onion's story about staging Shakespeare, would appreciate the part where Cass describes doing everything with Julia, even "when Shakespeare in the Park did Twelfth Night with finger puppets."
Highly recommended. Grade 7 and up.