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Meant to Be Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This delightful debut explores the excitement and insecurities of an unexpected first love. During the junior-year lit class trip to London, Julia, a rule-following, socially awkward swimmer/scholar, finds herself partnered with Jason, the obnoxious class clown. Her mission is to enjoy the historical sights while retracing her parents' honeymoon travels. He has plans to make the "Book Licker" break some rules and have fun. He drags her to a party, and after Julia has a few drinks, she exchanges numbers with a handsome British boy. Here is where the adventure begins. With a huge nod to Shakespeare, Jason agrees to help Julia compose love note texts and she agrees to write his cultural papers. The two form an alliance, and, although readers can see their feelings for each other grow, Julia believes her true "meant to be" love is her crush Mark, who happens to show up unexpectedly. Jealousy, some mixed messages, and a kiss that sends Julia spinning ensue. Even with the slightly contrived plotline, readers can't help but cheer for Jason as he opens up and wins Julia's heart. The good times they experience in London are a perfect balance to the painful secrets they reveal to each other, and girls will identify with Julia's angst when she believes she has been duped ("If I can go back to ignoring him, just like before this trip began, then I can forget"). A great choice for teens who enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Little, Brown, 2012), Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere (Farrar, 2005), or Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (Knopf, 2010).-Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Romance combines with a tense mystery in Boston high-school junior Julia’s wry, present-tense narrative of her 10-day student trip to London. She is assigned clumsy Jason as her partner, but he is just not her type, and they have fuming arguments. She texts her best friend in Boston about her longtime crush on Mark (who now wants to spend time with her) and the alluring texts she is getting from “Chris”—who is he? She daydreams about Chris and about perfect Mark; if only Jason would go away. But who is stealing her phone and reading and sending text messages on it? She does have a great kiss, but it’s with Jason: was it a huge mistake? The traveling details are part of the fun: her friends are into shopping, not Shakespeare, and there are raucous puns about Big Ben. The contemporary scene with consumer name-dropping will grab readers, though, of course, the details will date. Still, the core drama is the romance, with all its turnarounds and timeless realism. Grades 7-12. --Hazel Rochman
Top customer reviews
I could tell straight off that this novel would be a fantabulous read for me. The book opens with, "There are certain things in life that just suck. Pouring a big bowl of Lucky Charms before realizing the milk is expired, the word 'moist,' falling face-first into the salad bar in front of the entire lacrosse team . . ." It you can make me laugh with the first two sentences, things are looking up. I proceeded to highlight a bunch of quotes that spoke to me and made me laugh. If you go on GR, right now and look up quotes by Lauren Morrill, I added all of them, because I'm a nutter and obsessed.
My very favorite aspect of Meant to Be is how well-drawn Julia is. She totally rocks, but which I mean she's kind of awkward and judgmental and anal-retentive. Julia might have more in common with me than any heroine I've ever encountered, with our main differences being her skill as a swimmer and her dedication to homework. Julia, like me, is not a rule-breaker, pretty much as a rule, and, when she does break them, it's this sort of painful mix of fun and fear. She loves reading more than just about anything else and has only one close friend, Phoebe. On top of that, she's introverted and has curly, frizzy hair she cannot figure out what to do with. My advice to her on that last one is confidence; if you pretend it looks awesome, a lot of people will be fooled.
What was most familiar to me about Julia was her perspective. Julia's mental dialog is pretty much exactly what it's like to live in my head, especially my less self-aware high school brain. Despite being incredibly intelligent and witty, Julia, when in a social situation, generally fails to prove herself verbose and lacks witty retorts. Yet, in her head, she has this constant judgmental, snarky commentary running at all times, which, of course, deserts her at times of need. She also has a temper and doesn't realize how harsh or superior she comes off to other people. To me, Julia is one hundred percent realistic, believable and hilarious.
I will say that the only other strongly-developed character is Jason, and even he takes a definite back seat. This is no surprise given how caught up Julia is in her own world and impressions of things and people. Since it's just like my mind, I can tell you right now that she's not the most reliable narrator. Meant to Be is definitely driven by Julia, so I suspect that if you don't like her the book won't be much fun for you.
The romance does not go anywhere surprising, but it's totally one of my favorite formulas. I've always been so weak to the boy and girl who don't like each other at first plotline, because of my love of Pride and Prejudice, which Morrill is obviously a total fangirl about too, based on the numerous references. Shakespeare comes up a lot too, of course, but, if this is actually a retelling of anything (I thought it was a Shakespeare retelling, though I suspect I made that up), it's of P&P.
In Meant to Be, Julia has to deal with a lot of personal issues surrounding her own expectations. She has love built up into this epic construct in her mind, and it's totally messing her up. Again, I relate to this to an insane degree. Her realizations are important ones and I think this sends a great message to teens compared to all of the obnoxious teen love lasts forever stuff. While Jason and Julia do, I think, have amazing chemistry, I also don't know what I see them making a great couple for all time, and I like that.
The last thing I must mention is the setting. Meant to Be takes place during a class trip to London. Julia has signed up with out her best friend and is stuck with a whole bunch of other teens she mostly doesn't like while trying to enjoy herself in a foreign country. Girl, I have been there and it is unfortunate, especially since I didn't have a Jason. Meant to Be is one of those books that makes you feel like you're traveling. I already wanted to go to London so, so much, and now I want to just pack up and go right now, though I'm far too plan-oriented for that, as Julia would understand.
Though I had a couple of small issues with Meant to Be (mostly to do with the cell phones the school provided for them during the trip, which I so do not see happening), I completely adored the whole book and will be devouring everything else Morrill writes as soon as I possibly can.
From the very first page, I was hooked and I didn't want to put it down. I finally had to to sleep before work but I ended up finishing at work.
I would give this novel a PG-13 rating and recommend it for mature young adults. There are mentions of sex. The characters never engage in it but the mention of it is still there.
There are times when the main character is immature and annoying but I think it was a realistic representation and a lot of teenagers would have reacted the same way in her situation. Maybe even have been a bit more immature.
Part of the ending was totally unexpected to me but thinking back I know there were hints that I just didn't catch because I was too enthralled with the story. I'm sure many readers will catch them though.
I can't wait to read move from this author. It is stories like this one where I know I'll never be too old to read YA fiction.