Morrill, Lauren. Meant to Be (2012). Delacorte Press. 306 Pages. $5.99
Before even beginning my review, I just… this is a Teen book. Deliberately with a capital T. It is about teens having teen adventures and finding teen romance, and that is awesome, and I enjoyed reading it, but if you choose to do so based upon my review (to follow) please do be aware of that.
Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.
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.
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…
The book is cute. A lot of the story is fluff, and that’s okay. It’s a cute, fun, enjoyable romance for teens. It’s fairly clean (some suggestiveness is involved, which realistically, is to be expected of teens.) It’s fairly predictable; you can guess from page one who Julia is going to end up with. It follows the formulas.
And yet, it is not a bad book. Not in the slightest. I genuinely enjoyed reading it, and felt that the characters had depth. They were interesting. There were some confusing moments. And there is one scene in particular where I still cannot figure out why a particular character was behaving the way they were. Like, really, truly. It makes absolutely no sense. (Spoiler, highlight to read: the bit with the cartwheels. What was that? I still don’t understand. What on earth could he have been hoping to achieve with that? What was the point? Every other action seemed to have a point, but cartwheeling? Dragging into her in the freaking pond? What the hell, Jason? This scene was just so jarring and unexplained, I couldn’t get past it without some serious effort. End spoiler.)
I like Julia. She’s a a little flat at first, but she really begins to round out and become a full character throughout the novel. Her one-dimensional organized control freak side never entirely leaves, but she seems to grow into more. She’s written well though, and has a strong voice, the narration is so clearly her that it’s wonderful. The images may not always be vivid, but the way things are described and told you get to know Julia well.
Jason was not my favorite, but he wasn’t bad either. He’s not as well-rounded as Julia. Not as believable. He’s hard to like, but that changes with time when you start to see glimpses of what seems like the real him. Julia’s opinions change, too. She’s confused by the two sides, by the huge differences in Jason’s behavior from moment to moment.
The plot? Well, it’s predictable, and that’s okay. The book never hides what it is, never pretends to be something it’s not. It’s a teen romance, and it fills the role well. You know what is going to happen. (Mostly, there’s one fairly clever twist that I’ll admit I suspected and then dismissed early on.) The interesting part isn’t the what. It seldom is. The thing that is interesting is the how. How do they move from enemies to friends? How do they move from friends to love interests? How do they transition from interests to partners? That is always the question with books like this.
And the “how” in this novel is good. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s interesting and handled well, and it kept me reading much later into the night than I’m proud of. (I get up for work at 4:45am. I stopped reading a little past midnight, which is three hours past when I need to be in bed for a proper night’s sleep. I am not proud of this, but it is what it is, and I was really enjoying the book.)
I’m not going to give it a perfect score, because though I enjoyed it, it’s not on the same level as most of the books I give 5s to, (and didn’t inspire the irrational love that some others did), but I did enjoy it, so it’s going to get a 4/5. I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it, and it kept me interested until the very last page.
I’ll probably check out Morrill’s other book, Being Sloane Jacobs sometime soon. It sounds like fun.
If you choose to buy this book based upon my review, please consider using my Amazon referral link.