I feel like it was “meant to be” for me to read this book at this moment in time. I have a way sometimes of finding the perfect novel to read before I embark on some major life change. I read Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares right before I went away to college. The girls in the book were spending one last summer together before they all kind of headed their separate ways. And I always felt so grateful to have read that at that exact same time in my life.
I feel kind of the same way with this one. Not that I’m in high school or going on a class trip to London any time soon. I actually did that in college, but not the point…This is my last post I’m making from my Chicago home. I’m about to make a big move east for a new job! And I guess there aren’t really too many literal connections between my life and the life of this main character. I just feel like her trip to London was an awakening. And I’m hoping for a similar experience with my trip.
Julia is on a class trip London. She unfortunately had to leave her best friend behind and spend her time in the city she has most wanted to go to with all the popular kids in her school that she absolutely can’t stand. But that’s no big deal. Julia can get through anything as long as she follows her rules. Her slight OCD tendencies have landed her a fantastic GPA and that’s more important than high school drama.
Julia kind of wants to go to England because of her parents. Their time there has amounted to some great stories. And Julia seriously misses her dad who passed away several years ago. And because of her love of reading and her ultimate ideal couple being her parents, Julia is a believer in MTB (meant to be). She thinks her parents were meant to meet when they did. And her long-lasting childhood crush who moved back to her hometown will one day come to realize that she and him were MTB as well.
The students are all given cell phones to only use for emergencies when they get to London. All the phones are identical and have the same amount of minutes on them. Of course the instructor isn’t exactly specific as to what constitutes emergencies. And Julia, while never breaking any rules ever, deems her besties’ texts about her MTB as being necessary.
Julia gets buddied off with her least favorite person, Jason. Jason is the kind of guy who hits on everyone, gets invited to a random parties thrown be strangers, gives little kids he doesn’t know pieces of gum, and really is not that avid a believer in rule following. And for no apparent reason to Julia, the two actually seem to quickly bond and become friends. Jason gets Julia out of her guidebooks and into actual life experiences. He drags her to parties, gets her to flirt with boys, and generally just lets her know that is okay to stray from the rules sometimes, to have fun. And Julia, in return keeps up with him. She doesn’t let him get away with things that everyone else in the world does. And she helps him when he needs her.
They kind of start by making this deal. Jason will help Julia flirt and meet up with a guy who has been texting her ever since that first night’s party if she agrees to write all his reflection papers. The deal is made. And the two go to the Globe Theater, to skateboard parks, to pubs, to music stores, and even to the London Eye together. Everything is leading up to 3 guys seeming to have feelings for Julia. And she has a lot to decide about MTB, about love, and about growing up (and possibly out of her shell).
I overwhelmingly relate to Julia, who lives more in her books than she does in reality. She’s so sarcastic, intelligent, and curious, and caring. She’s not the typical YA main character. She definitely has her flaws. She is so angry so much of the time. She misses her dad. And her way with dealing with her anger is by being active. She swims away her feelings or runs away her stress. She’s constantly falling down and embarrassing herself. And she’s always aware of what she looks like. I love that she loves to eat too! She doesn’t shy away from all the yummy foods in England.
I also super loved the setting. I spent a month in England for a January term at my college. I took a theater class, where my group saw 20+ plays. It was an amazing trip for me. I love recognizing all the places that Julia and Jason go. And the places I didn’t go to, like that park, make me want to go back there! Like Julia, I didn’t really have many friends on my trip. But also like her, this sort of worked to my advantage. I did a lot more exploring independently because of it and really got to see everything I wanted to (like Harry Potter tours, Abbey Road, the Sherlock Holmes museum, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, etc.)
I also loved Jason! He was so believable. I loved his up and down personality. I loved how much he wanted to get Julia out! He’s the guy who did cartwheels (literally) across London when Julia was meeting up with a certain guy he didn’t like. He was just so interesting to me. He had family dramas of his own and I like how this inadvertently brought the two together more.
Was the story original? No. It really reminded me of an old Olsen twin movie…but in a good way. I used to love those when I was a kid (don’t judge). Was the twist actually a surprise? Definitely not. I called it all from the beginning. But, in no way, shape, or form did any of this hinder my overall enjoyment of the book. It read like the recipe for a good romantic comedy. And I ate it up! I do think there were a few little loopholes in the plot with their teacher not being able to tell things (like that they were leaving the hotel every night, not really sick when they said they were, or not really present when they were hungover). I just don’t think their teacher could be that dumb or irresponsible.
But, that didn’t really bother me either. I loved this book. It is just what a needed: a great story about growing up, trying new things, and learning to live in a whole new way! I read it in one sitting. I give it a 10/10 and I hope to see more from the author.