Better Known as Privilege Teens Make Asses of Themselves in Europe: I see London and I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

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I see London, I see France
I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Timesbestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera… wearing only her polka dot underpants.

Source: GoodReads

When I was in law school, I spent one summer studying abroad in Ireland.  During one weekend, my friend and I went to Cork’s Fota Wildlife Park.  The park was pretty cool, they let the animals walk around free range.  But unfortunately, there were these bratty tourists who chased around one of the animals to the point  where I complained to one of the employees that I suspected that there was animal cruelty going on and got their asses kicked out of the park.

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Lemurs at the park.  And yeah, no cages.  If you ever get around to going to Ireland you need to visit this place. 

Yeah, I’m that sort of person.

Anyway, why am I talking about this…because those obnoxious teens, they reminded me of Sydney and her friends the stars of this book.

Though to be fair, Sydney’s friend, Kat, isn’t obnoxious for most of the book.  Till the end, where its randomly revealed that the guy who had blatantly been hitting on Sydney was really into Kat and Kat ditches her boyfriend for a random hookup but…details.

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Oops, spoiler.  But honestly, Kat is not a major character so its not that much of one.  Just that she goes from being the only decent human in the book to sort of being a douche herself.

The major characters in this book Sydney and Leela are both fucking annoying though.  Especially Leela.  Oh God, this bitch needed to be ditched so many times by Sydney I can’t even count.

She is the epitome of bad friend.  And yeah, Sydney loses her cool with this bitch at one point, but it’s quickly white washed over like…oh, I was mad at you will you forgive me.

No.

Leela isn’t the sort of person you want to be friends with.  Sydney should’ve just said screw you and left her way back in Paris when she was being a bitch to Kat and dictating everything they do.

Sydney though isn’t much better.  She is the epitome of a dumb tourist.  Doing dumb touristy things that make Americans looks bad.

Case in point, she doesn’t make reservations and wants accommodations.  Instead of trying local cuisine in freaking Italy, she eats pink slime.  Seriously, authors..why do you always act like Mickey D’s is the best thing ever.

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It fucking is not.

She also suffers from major insta love/lust in this book.  While a part of me is glad that this book is some ways kept it so casual with the relationships, on the other hand I got majority annoyed when those causal flings started going for the more generic YA twue love trope when the book started winding down.

Seriously, the relationship went from just being mostly physical to I can have a long distance relationship that’s three thousand miles apart shit.

I wouldn’t have mind it so much if there was more development than the relationship mostly being the two characters trying to hook up with each other while hiding it from their besties.  Also, had Jackson’s history also been explored more.  Leela keeps making references that he’s a man whore and there was some evidence that he was hooking up when he and Sydney were involved but it’s quickly smoothed over with the main character believing that “nothing happened” with the Kardashian model look alike.

Yeah, and collusion didn’t happen in the 2016  presidential election…

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Anyways, besides having really bad case in guys and thinking she should get a break because she was too stupid to watch watch Rick Steves’ Europe, Sidney also suffers from being a completely shitty friend herself.

She lets Leela treat Kat like crap for example.  And her behavior is Amsterdam was pretty obnoxious.

Sorry if this makes me a prude, but the scenes in Amsterdam were entirely inappropriate for a younger YA audience.  Yes, I know that smoking pot and prostitution is legal in Amsterdam.  And yes, I did expect the characters to at least go into one of the pot shops in Amsterdam when they went there, it’s sort of like the elephant in the room.  BUT having them go into a sex club in a YA book where people are having coitus in front of them.

Yeah, I get that shit happens.  But this is a YA book.  And Mlynowski’s books up to this point have generally ran on the young side of YA.  Hell, she has a younger age series that she’s been heavily focused on lately AND further more the cartoon-y like cover of the book is going to make it seem like harmless fun.  But the scenes in Amsterdam went beyond get shit faced on pot.  And the one character who didn’t partake in the antics was looked at as being prude like and a bitch for getting mad that her boyfriend had decided to volunteer at the sex club.

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Yeah…

I’m sort of surprise the editor didn’t raise issue with that scene.  Like I said, as an adult it didn’t bother me but a thirteen year old reading this shit it would be too fucking much.  I know if I had a kid that age I wouldn’t want them reading that sort of shit.  And TBH it wasn’t so much the drug use or sex club that bothered me as was the characters reactions to the so called prude like character.

I mean, God forbid you didn’t want your boyfriend to take off some other woman’s bra.

Besides the obnoxious characters, I got annoyed with the fact that I couldn’t get absorbed into any of the settings.  This book does visit a fair amount of countries and honestly I didn’t feel any of them.

Sure we’ll get some touristy attractions thrown out there, but for the most part the characters could be vacationing anywhere and it would’ve been the same story.  And for fuck’s sake, how do these kids have money?  When I was in Ireland, I didn’t have time to hop on a plane fly to some random country not the continent and spend thousands of Euros on stupid shit.   Grant it, I was in school and these yahoos were backpacking but still.

And then there was Kat’s internship.  Must be some nice fucking internship that allows you to randomly take off long periods of time to just hang out with your idiot friends.

I know, it’s a book that suspends large parts of reality BUT it still got annoying.

As far as plot is concerned, other than the not so melodrama of the physical turned twue love relationship between Sydney and Jackson there’s really not much plot to this one.  Oh wait, there’s the annoying subplot about the agoraphobic mom that really goes nowhere.

I didn’t even know what the point was of that shit.

Anyway, this one annoyed me.  It wasn’t bad but I didn’t like a single character apart from Kat and like I said she started grating on my nerves at the end.  Apparently, this one is going to have a sequel (I’m betting companion) too.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t take place in that sex club in Amsterdam.

Overall Rating: A C- if you like the characters and are on the older side of YA this one might work better for you than me.

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Otherwise Known as Dad’s a Pseudo Bigamist: Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

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ONE SUMMER in the French countryside, among sun-kissed fields of lavender . . .

ANOTHER SUMMER in upstate New York, along familiar roads that lead to surprises . . .

When Summer Everett makes a split-second decision, her summer divides into two parallel worlds. In one, she travels to France, where she’s dreamed of going: a land of chocolate croissants, handsome boys, and art museums. In the other, she remains home, in her ordinary suburb, where she expects her ordinary life to continue — but nothing is as it seems.

In both summers, she will fall in love and discover new sides of herself. What may break her, though, is a terrible family secret, one she can’t hide from anywhere. In the end, it may just be the truth she needs the most.

From New York Times bestselling author Aimee Friedman comes an irresistible, inventive novel that takes readers around the world and back again, and asks us what matters more: the journey or the destination.

Source: GoodReads

This book should’ve of been tagged with a warning label that it would piss me off.  I’ll just get the good stuff out the way, the book is readable.  In this day and age of YA, that’s actually a plus because there is a lot of shit with purple prose out there that you just want to tell to f off.  But even though this book didn’t have purple prose I still wanted to tell it to sod off and slam the door in its ugly face.

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I should’ve known when I read that the MC’s name was Summer that we were not going to be friends.  I have a bad experience with that name, so it might’ve tainted me (a little) with this book.  That aside though, the MC’s name could’ve been Indiana Jones and I still wouldn’t have liked the book.

And if you know me, you know I have a thing for Indiana Jones pre-horrendous fourth movie with the prairie dogs.  I think it’s the fact he kicks Nazi ass and the hat.  Got to love the hat.

I’ll give credit to Summer though, I didn’t exactly hate her for the most part.  Sure, girl had borderline misogynic tendencies and trashed talk supposed “Mean Girls” all the time but I mostly felt sorry for her.

She was pretty fucking pathetic.  And I don’t know if that’s a good thing.  I mean, I get shit happens to good people in real life but I felt like this character got hit with so much shit so I would feel sorry for her, despite hating girls instantly because they’re prettier than her.  And insult girls because they’re different than her.

A Grumpy YA reader does not forget, Summer.  Though you’re life sucks and your parents are horrible people and you really should ask (no, beg) your aunt to take up custody of you, so you might grow up to be a quasi decent human.  But…

Yeah, there is so much shit in this book and I don’t think the fallout was ever dealt with properly BECAUSE we had to deal with the fucking gimmick of this book.

The two realities.

Which aren’t even fucking explained.  Like, I’m even sure why we even have them here other than to sell the book.  I can imagine that a conversation  sort of like  this happened between Friedman in the editors when drafting this book.  Okay, not like this, but this was the sort of conversation I imagined when reading this drivel:

Editor: This just isn’t very interesting Aimee.  A girl gets ditched by her father and ends up staying at home taking a lame-o junior college class and finding out a life changing secret. She was going to France.  Freaking France. I wanted freaking France in this book and instead I got a boring photography class with some melodrama.  I mean, who cares about the dad being a bigamist.

Friedman: Well, he’s not exactly a bigamist.  They weren’t married so pseudo bigamist.  And besides,  it’s a life changing secret.  That is our hook.

Editor Shrugs: Yeah, life changing.  I mean, there’s lots of logical fallacies here that…you know what, maybe if you had What’s-Her-Face go to freaking France it might be more interesting.  You know what, rewrite the book is France and gets some baguettes and hot French dudes in here and we’ll see how things progress.  Oh, and when you finish your draft order me some baguettes.  Wait, no baguette, I’m on a no carb thing.

Six Weeks (Or However Long it Takes) Later when Friedman finishes next draft and orders her editor a shit load of baguettes to keep her in a good mood (spoiler alert, it didn’t work).

Friedman: So, is this better?

Editor: Munching on a stale baguette and gulping some hot chalet that Friedman also bought-it was that crappy instant stuff, but still chocolate.  Well, I like the hot French guy and the baguettes, but the page count is obscenely small and all What’s-Her-Face does is pout at the half sister.

Friedman: But she’s so snotty you know because she’s French and she’s the pseudo other wife’s daughter.

Editor: I know that, darling but….your page count it’s so small now.  Though, I do think the French guy is an improvement from the photo guy.

Friedman: She needs to end up with the photo guy.

Editor: Why he’s positively boring, and lame.  I mean, I know he wears hipster glasses but still boring.

Friedman: She needs to end up with the photography guy.  You can’t do long distance relationships in YA.  Unless there’s a sequel, and I can’t do a sequel (see my page count).  And I really  can’t increase my page count, believe me I tried there’s only so much I can write about eating baguettes in cafes.

Editor: Frowns as she bites into a baguette.  Well, we need the book to hit at least 50K words now if there was just a way for you to use what you had….you know AU realities are popular in YA right now..maybe you could randomly add one and we could sale this thing.

Friedman: Well, it beats rewriting the book again. Or sending you baguettes.

Okay, that was just me being a jerk  and that probably wasn’t what happened in real life, because I’m sure Aimee Friedman and her editor had a legitimate plan with this one,  but God knows its what this book felt like and like the Fictional Editor, I so prefer the hot French guy to the boring stooge that the character ends up with.

Whoops, spoiler alert.  Though to be fair, someone had already spoiled it for me on GoodReads and if it helps some other poor sap from getting their shipper heart ripped out then I really don’t give a fuck because the ship that one oozed bad ship.

Or bland ship I should say.  With the Hot French Guy, whose name is actually Jaques (how cliche can you get) there was actual chemistry even if it was cliche beyond belief.   I honestly believe that Friedman wanted to give Summer some sort of happiness at the end of the book and just couldn’t figure out a way to make Jaques and Summer stay together so she settled with Snoozer Hugh.

Bland ship aside though, one of the reasons I didn’t like this book was that the alternate realities are never really explained.  Sure, we get an occasional reference of “What If” but…we don’t know what’s real and what’s not. And I still don’t know what the point of the AU shit was (other than to theorize it was to make up for a lack of page count).

When I was reading this book I was comparing it to a Lifetime movie I watched last Christmas that involved a similar premises with this career woman who lived two alternate time lines-one which she missed a plane and another where she caught it.  This book reminded me of that premises, but the movie  (that’s right a Lifetime movie) did a better job explaining it.

At the end of the day, I just didn’t like this book.  Maybe there were some things that were trigger inducing for me-the name summer and some of the plot devices BUT it wasn’t that so much but the unexplained idiocy of the plot and the stupid ship.

Overall Rating: A D the writing gave it the passmark (barely).

 

Book Travel: Because When You Have No Money Its Either this or Rick Steves

I love traveling.  Unfortunately, I am on a bit of a budget and have limited vacation days.  Oh, and yeah, I’m trying to save enough money to purchase a pooch of my own.  So, that’s why I’m not planning any Parisian vacation anytime soon.  That doesn’t mean, I have to abandon my traveling dreams though.  I can always read you know…

Or binge watch Rick Steves which I actually do a lot.

You’ll notice in this post that most of the books I’ve listed are limited to Europe.  I’d like to do future posts where I feature books from other regions of the world.  The problem is, when I was thinking about this post I realized how limited the genre is on books that don’t take place in the Western world.  While there are a fair share of books that take place in Asia, which I’ll discuss in a later post, finding books that took place in Africa or Latin and South America is more.  Which is a shame because those regions of the world have a lot to offer.

This makes me realize how much the We Need Diverse Books campaign needs to expand.  Because while having diverse characters is important.  It’s also important to showcase different cultures and locations as well.

The British Isles:

Everyone and their mother is familiar with the UK.  If you’re an English major, you’re probably an anglophile by nature.  And why wouldn’t you be.  There are so many characters that have their origins in British literature.  YA does a fair job with this culture past and present. Here’s a few of my picks.

 

Yeah, I know it’s technically New Adult/Adult, but this one takes a part of British culture that anglophiles go gaga over-the royalty.  I don’t know what it is about the British monarchy that sets it apart from all other monarchies, but somehow they’re the prince and princesses that everyone remembers.  Besides from having a Kate Middleton fantasy, the book also does a fair job portraying how modern UK life is.

Want a book about a contemporary British teen, look no further.  There’ s lots and lots of British awkwardness with this one.  And bonus points for it, it has travel in it.

Harry Potter is often someone’s first taste of British literature.  And yes, I’m calling Harry Potter literature because you so know people are going to read and enjoy it years from now while they’ll be wondering if Fifty Shades of Gray was the most expensive toilet paper known to man kind.  Young readers get exposed to words such as snog and mum.  Of course, the US version is dumbed down on the British lingo.  But it’s still nice to say bloody and have your parents not realize it’s a curse word.

France:

France is actually a country I’d like to see exploited more in YA.  There are a few books that take place in this wonderful country, but a lot of them are limited to Paris.  So, I sort of cheated on here by putting one New Adult/Adult book on here.  I list it as a New Adult/Adult because it’s really a New Adult book written before New Adult was actually a genre.

Another obvious one.  But this book really does a great job exploring the city that is Paris.  Even if Anna and St. Clair drive you bonkers, you’ll fall in love with the city.  And in the end, I think that’s what made this book so awesome the use of setting.  And macaroons of course too.

There’s actually a lot of traveling in this book.  However, I put it on this lists because of the French section in the novel.  I liked that Cabot focused on rural France rather than Paris.  Because Paris is great and all, but there’s other parts of the country too.

While the part of France that this book takes place in, technically isn’t yet France.  It’s nice to see Northern France get a chance to shine a bit.  Especially a region of France that normally doesn’t get that much attention.

Italy:

With a country with such a rich history, culture, and with food that has created half a dozen bad American chains this is a country that everything and anything can happen.  And of course, there are quite a few books set here because of this.

While not a lot of this book actually takes place in Italy, there are some nice scenes in Florence that give you a Roman Holiday feel except not in Rome.

Touristy.  That’ s how I would describe this book.  Very touristy.  If you want what you stereotypically think of as Italian-gelato, vespas, and suave men this is your book.

I just noticed that all of these Italy themed books have Vespas on their covers.  What’s up with that?  And that girl’s almost dressed exactly the same as the girl on Love, Lucy.  Heck, it might be the same cover but slightly altered.  Whatever.  This is another one of that features a tourist coming to Italy for school.  I remember being mildly intrigued with this one, but not enough where I read the sequel.  But it did have vespas in it.  And art.

Germany: 

If you’re looking for a World War II historical, finding a book that takes place in Germany is very easy.  I couldn’t really find anything in modern Germany though.  Which is a shame, because the country and area is really fascinating.  I sort of want there to be a Cold World era thriller that takes place in East and West Germany with dual protagonists.  That book would be awesome.  Of course, I haven’t found one yet. Just books about Hitler and how he ruined a country.  Which I enjoy reading about because I think it’s important to know what a horrible dick Hitler was, I just wish that other areas of the country’s rich history and culture were explored more.

Yes, it takes place pre-World War II and Hitler has a starring role as the sadistic bastard that he is.  But it is a good book and you really do experience Germany in that time period.  Again, I love all the World War II oriented German themed stories, but sometimes I just wish I could find a book in Germany that didn’t have Hitler or Nazis in it.

Spain:

Not a lot.  Unfortunately.  I love this region though.  There is rich culture, history, and the region is just so diverse.  There are parts of Spain that have its own language and are almost separate from the rest of the country as well.

There are some lovely scenes in Barcelona in this book.  Unfortunately, they don’t make up the bulk of the book.  But the time spent in Barcelona, was probably the best part of the book.

I’m not usually a fan of teen pregnancy in YA, but this one takes place in Southern Spain.  Specifically Seville.    Which is gorgeous, so I might have to pick it up.

Greece: 

Like Italy, there’s a fair amount of books that take place in Greece.  Again, this might be because  there’s a fair amount of Greek myth retellings. But I also think that there’s this romantic feeling of stepping back in time with Greece.  Plus, it makes for a pretty book cover.

There’s a large arc of this series that takes place on and off in Greece and there are some really romantic moments that take place in the country.

A boarding school for the descendants of the gods that takes place in Greece.  Sweet.   Honestly though, the Greece setting is not used as much as it should.  The kids at the school speak perfect English and other than a couple of Greek pastries this book might as well be taking place in California or wherever.

This one is being pitched as an Anna and the French Kiss in Greece.  If that’s the case I’m going to eat this one up.  Because Greece is one country I want to explore.

Russia: 

I was surprised to find that I was able to find a fair amount of Russia set YA books.  I didn’t think I would, but there seem to be a fair amount of books set in this area which is good because it’s such a fascinating place.

Set during the Russian Revolution, there’s some magical realism thrown in here for good measure. It didn’t, however, feature near enough Romanovs.

I haven’t read this one, but Cold War era USSR.  Let’s just hope that Putin is not the hero in this novel.  I mean, it could happen in the era it takes place in he’d be about the right age and we know he loves to take his shirt off.

That’s it for this time.  The next one of these posts I do, I hope I’ll be able to do one on Asia.  There’s a fair amount of books that take place there and I’m hoping that with input and some research I’ll be able to find books that take place all over the world.