Well, I made it to England, but it wasn't in the pages of Pride and Prejudice.
Instead, I recently spent a very blissful afternoon reading Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. Julia was raised with parents who had a perfect relationship. Her parents always talked about how they were meant to be together, that fate threw them at each other and they never looked back. Knowing how lucky her parents were to have found each other, how deeply they loved each other, and how wonderful their marriage was right up until her dad got sick and died, Julia will settle for nothing less in her own life.
When she was growing up, her neighbor Mark started showing signs that he was her MTB—that's what Julia and her best friend Phoebe call "meant to be." Mark and Julia would spend a lot of time playing together. One Christmas he gave her a whole bag of yellow Starburst, knowing that those were her favorite flavor. They even got fake married in her backyard when they were just six years old. He was her first crush, her first kiss, and first love.
Tragically, Mark's family moved away when they were still young, and over time Julia's MTB became a fond memory but an unrealistic pursuit. So she moves on with life, dating other guys but always wondering about Mark. Then, suddenly his family moves back to Boston and Julia starts to get that feeling again. Mark is her MTB once again—but why doesn't he even give her the time of day?
Determined to bide her time and love him from afar (for now) Julia reluctantly packs her bags for a ten day English class trip to London. None of her friends are going, but she knows the trip won't be dull when her nemesis, class clown Jason, spends the whole flight from Boston to London cracking immature jokes, flirting with the flight attendants, and accidentally starting a rumor that Julia joined him in the lavatory for an induction into the mile high club.
Oh, how mortifying! Why can't he grow up, already, and act like a normal human being?! This is just like that time in ninth grade when a red pen exploded on her pants and Jason filled her locker with tampons—successfully becoming Julia's life-long nemesis and mortal enemy.
Things go from bad to worse when their teacher, Mrs. Tennison, assigns the traveling students a "trip buddy," and of course she decides to assign them in alphabetical order. Jason becomes her partner, and now she has to spend a lot of time with him.
Julia has never been one to break the rules, but now she soon finds herself breaking them at every turn just to keep up with Jason. Jason can't believe Julia's so stiff and regulated—they're teenagers on the trip of a lifetime. Why can't she relax and have some fun?
Confusion and tension build as Jason & Julia travel to famous English landmarks like Stratford-Upon-Avon (birthplace of Shakespeare) and the Tower of London (the landmark once infamous for torture is now famous for housing the crown jewels).
This is a fast-paced, totally addicting read that will leave you laughing out loud and maybe shedding a few tears along the way. I really loved the ways that both lead characters start to learn from each other, and how the definition of MTB morphs and becomes more fluid as the pages fly by.
Two points struck home for me:
I have a personal dislike for books written in the present tense. I saw the fabulousness of this book clearly when I didn't realize it was written in the present tense until deep into chapter 2.
This book kept nudging me to read Pride and Prejudice, as Julia carries a copy with her everywhere she goes and references it frequently.
Stay tuned, dear reader. I may finally meet Mr. Darcy with my next read.
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