Julia is a quiet, uptight swimmer/bookworm with few friends and a lot of idiosyncrasies. Jason is a popular, loud, obnoxious lacrosse player whom Julia despises. Unfortunately, the two of them are paired up for the duration of their 10-day junior class London spring break field trip. Fortunately, there’s more going on for both of them than they originally think.
This is YA chick lit, plain and simple. I’m not normally a huge fan of chick lit, but this book was a lot of fun. And actually, I think that I like YA chick lit more than adult chick lit – the characters aren’t quite as obnoxious and unrealistic yet! Sure, Julia is a little caricatured, but in a way, I recognized a lot of me in her: swimmer, with over-chlorinated curly hair; uptight control freak; a complete klutz; hugely romantic when it comes to love. This last one – Julia believes in “meant to be” (hence the title), that fate will take her to her perfect match (she already knows who that is), that love will triumph and will end with a perfect fairytale story. This, of course, makes her blind. She has no idea that her supposed MTB is an asshole, or that Jason is obviously in love with her from page 1, or that she is slowly falling in love with him, too.
It was a cute story, though I admit that Jason was a bit over-the-top for me personally. He really is obnoxious. I’m not quite sure how he thought some of the things he was doing were going to endear himself to Julia. Flicking scone bits at her chest like she’s a soccer goal, getting her clothes full of junk? Belting himself to a wall in a prison museum and loudly begging her to flog him in front of everyone? Yeah… I’m also not quite sure how anyone thought some of the things he did were funny. But then again, I’m more like Julia, so maybe I’m just too uptight to see the humor.
The book was light, but it did give me one thing to really think about. As a teenager, I was also a control freak who naively believed in fate and “the one true love.” Jason makes a statement in here that he can’t believe Julia believes that fairytale, because she’s too smart for it. He also makes an unrelated statement about how maybe Julia wants to be dominated (in sex) because she’s such a control freak in every other facet of her life. It made me wonder if the reason I – and so many other control freaks – believed so hard in fate bringing about the one true love is because then it’s out of our hands. We want something that someone else controls, something that will be perfect without us having to arrange it. Even as an adult, my cynicism about perfect loves has roots in control, ie I accept nothing will happen without me going out and making it happen. Just a thought.
I’m glad I read the book. It has a really great first kiss scene, and some really sweet lines. I thought it was predictable the whole time through (re: Chris and the phone thing) but it turned out I was wrong the whole time. The twist at the end took me by surprise, and I had to go back and reread the whole book. It was just as fun the second time around, and that’s saying something, for chick lit!
Revisited in Jan 2017: I had just as much fun with this book all these years later as the first time. Plus, there was the added bonus of discovering that these characters are students at Newton North High School in Newton, MA, which is where my family lived in 2014-2015. If we’d stayed in Newton, my kids would have gone to Newton North, and I used to pass the high school every time I walked to the library. Ha!