The opening episodes of 'The Way Forward' are dramatic. Ben is injured, covered in blood and takes a trip to hospital. He voyages across an ocean to visit his love Allison whilst bruised, sick and broken, to be stood up at the Notre Dame. It is Christmas Day, Ben is 5074 miles away from home and his only comforts are a burly Frenchman named Jaques and a bag of Chestnuts to keep his hands warm. Reader, you are hooked. Chris Cope's enchanting fusion of heartbreak, comedy and vivid lively description lures you in to the tale, keeping you firmly ensconced as further adventures unfold, cementing your allegiance to Ben. This is a shrewd skill employed by the author, as it compels you to care. You care about the romantic, brave yet vulnerable Texan-Minnesotan Ben as he experiences a somewhat tumultuous exchange year in Portsmouth University. You will him to succeed. You will the evil Allison to fall off the Eiffel Tower. The characterisation is the strongest part of Chris Cope's writing for me, with attention to detail a close second. As Ben journeys around his memories, the present, the UK and France, the descriptions allow you to travel with him, enjoying his quirky encounters, living his escapades, and experiencing a genuine sense of each place and time. This is a book about identity, relationships, and, essentially - coming of age - adding Cope to the tradition of American authors who explore this theme. It's a book you'll want to keep reading to find out what happens next, and will read quickly as it's so engaging. Ben eventually, and touchingly, wises up to the soul-corroding side-effects of Allison's heartlessness, discovering more of a sense of himself and many realisations along the way.