I purchased and read Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill before The Reading Nook Reviews was even a twinkle in the horizon, so I figured I'd go back and write a mini-review of one of my favorite books from 2012.
Published November 13th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format read: Hardcover (owned)
Synopsis via Goodreads:
It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.
I was so excited about the fact that this was a debut novel from Lauren Morrill, but also a contemporary novel which just happened to take place in one of my favorite cities in the world/my former home. Fortunately for me, the finished book was just as awesome as I had hoped. It has everything a person could want in a great contemporary - romance; intrigue; friendships and foreign travel.
Things that worked:
Julia is the type of charming, anal, perfectionist that I absolutely love to see in my heroines. She's overly straight-laced, and is by no means perfect. (Though, I think she would love to think she is!)
Morrill does a fantastic job of showing why Julia is so anal-rententive, and how through pure circumstance and chance, she overcomes her own hangups and grows, during the course of the trip.
The secondary characters are adorable as well - with characters showing unexpected depth and different layers as the story unfolds. I liked that Julia allowed herself to be surprised by the depths revealed, and how it made the journey all the more satisfying as she searched for her Meant to Be.
Morrill has a keen ear for dialogue and description, and uses it to great effect. The dialogue between the characters is rich and varied, the city is described in sparkling tones, and the relationship achieves the maximum amount of swoon that a person could want in this book. I genuinely felt immersed in the book, and I was living everything alongside Julia, as the story unfolded.
The story moves at a brisk pace, with Julia's class trip providing the sort of natural and unexpected obstacles that make Meant to Be such a compelling story. I was genuinely surprised at some of the bombs that Morrill dropped throughout the book, while other obstacles were expected, but still immensely satisfying.
The effective use of London
As a former Londoner (3+ years), I'll confess: I'm extremely critical of authors who portray London as nothing but Big Ben + rain + cute British boys in fiction. I mean, it's true to an extent, but London's also a city with layers and multitudes that go beyond all of that.
This absolutely wasn't a problem with Meant to Be. I loved the fact that Morrill clearly did her research, and and incorporated aspects of the city that reminded me strongly of my own time there. She makes the city a character in its own right, as only the best writers could.
Is absolutely perfect. And that's all I'm going to say - read the book to find out why!
Things that didn't work:
However, this is just my opinion, so YMMV!
Meant to Be will charm readers with the love story, encourage readers - especially girls who've felt like they've been in Julia's position - to look beyond their expectations and boundaries, and will also leave readers with a serious, serious case of wanderlust.
(Seriously, Morrill! *Shakes fist* I just moved back from London, and now I want to go back again! :D)
I recommend this book for general fans of contemporary YA, but I also recommend this book for fans of writers like Stephanie Perkins, Maureen Johnson and Holly Smale.
About the author:
Her first novel, Meant to Be, sold in a two-book deal to Wendy Loggia at Delacorte for Paper Lantern Lit.