Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

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Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

One girl, 2 boys and a whole lot of hipsters in one crazy 12 hour adventure through the streets of London. Twelve hours, two boys, one girl… and a whole lot of hairspray.

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

A fast-paced, darkly funny love letter to London, boys with big hair and the joys of staying up all night.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have been a fan of Sarra Manning’s since I was 12 or 13 years old. Her Diary of a Crush trilogy were probably the first YA books that I read as a pre-teen/early teen and I’ve been following her career ever since I discovered those books. I borrowed, renewed, re-borrowed and renewed that trilogy from my local library over and over until I had enough money to buy my own copies! Let’s Get Lost was one of my favourite books of all time up until I was about 16 or 17, and it still holds a precious place in my heart and my reading history. And Unsticky, her first adult novel, was released around the time when I was transitioning into reading adult fiction and I reread that book countless times too. Needless to say, I was super excited when I heard about her new YA release, London Belongs to Us, which is essentially a love letter to London.

sarra-manning

London Belongs to Us takes place in London within a 12 hour period. We start at 8pm at Crystal Palace and travel all around London with the main character, Sunny, until we reach Alexandra Palace at 8am the next morning. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to London and I have no idea where all these places are.) The story begins with Sunny making plans to meet up with and have sex with her boyfriend, Mark. But soon after, she receives some very incriminating photos of Mark kissing another girl in a different part of London. Sunny then spends the whole night travelling around London trying to track down a very elusive Mark. Along the way, she meets some crazy characters and new friends, and discovers a whole new side of herself that she’s never been able to let out.

This was such a fun novel and I finished it in one sitting. It was a crazy and exciting adventure around London and Sunny gets up to all sorts of crazy antics, like dancing the Charleston on top of a freezer unit in a convenience store, doing illegal u-turns in a rickshaw pulled by an Australian, and carrying a broom around for the whole night. She went to so many different places around London and I enjoyed going along with her. What I really loved about London Belongs to Us is that each chapter is set in a different place in London and there were a couple of paragraphs about the history of each location and also what is distinctive about each location now. Even though I didn’t really know much about the city, I discovered so much as I read the novel and it was a really great learning experience. For readers who are familiar with London, I think this would be a very relatable book and you’d probably find yourself laughing out loud or agreeing with how these places are portrayed.

But then I think about riding pillion on scooters and seeing off rude boys and dancing the Charleston and I think that Mark has never seen the best of me.

Despite being a short novel, Sarra Manning packs quite a bit of character development into it. Sunny starts off with being a bit of a pushover. She’s afraid to say and do what she wants, and she allows Mark to charm her and walk all over her. She follows her mother’s rules to a tee and always aims to please. But throughout this book, she learns to speak her mind and be herself, while going on a wild adventure that she’d never dream of going on. Sunny is biracial and the book explores what this means for Sunny as well as other people of colour in London. I really loved that this was an issue that was explored in the book and I highly enjoyed the diversity. There were also  LGBTQIA+ side characters and I just loved how this book celebrated diversity. There wasn’t a single side character in the novel that I didn’t like, but of course I especially loved the two cute French boys that accompany Sunny on her all-night adventure around London. I loved the banter and all the bickering between the French boys, as well as the fact that the first thing they do after taking off their scooter helmets is to drown their hair in hairspray to poof it up. It was just all so much fun!

Sarra Manning has never disappointed me and I absolutely loved London Belongs to Us. It was crazy and energetic and just a really great feel-good read that made me laugh a lot.

London Belongs to Us was published by Hot Key Books on July 27, 2016. It is available at Australian retailers for $16.99.

The Nostalgic Book Review Tag

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The Nostalgic Book Review Tag is a new and fun tag created by CW @ Read, Think, Ponder. I was also tagged by her (thank you so much!). The idea of the tag is that you review a book from memory that you read over 3 years ago, because it’s not always the details of the plot that you remember. It’s the feelings that the book evoked that stick with you for a long time.

Here is my summary of the guidelines (you can check out the original guidelines and prompts here):

  1. Summary: Provide a summary of the book, including approximately when you read it, without consulting Google or the book itself.
  2. Thoughts: Share your thoughts on the book, from memory
  3. Epilogue: Look up a summary of the book and share your thoughts on what you did or didn’t remember/current feelings about the book.

RULES

  • Please link back to Read, Think, Ponder’s post, so that the original rules are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
  • Do not look up the book when writing its summary and your thoughts.
  • Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
  • Tag your friends and fellow bloggers – it’s up to you how many!

 

French Kiss by Sarra Manning

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Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Release date: 2004
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0340877022
Pages: 213
Goodreads || Book Depository

summary

French Kiss is the first book in the Diary of a Crush trilogy. I first discovered this book and Sarra Manning when I was 13 years old, wandering around the YA section of my library. It was the first YA book that I remember reading so I wanted to feature it today. I was so obsessed with this whole series that I borrowed and renewed it about 10 times, before finally caving and buying my own copies (I saved my pocket money for a very long time for these books).

Because I read this such a long time ago, and I haven’t reread it in the last… 6-7 years, I don’t really remember much. I also remember the other two books a bit more vividly than this first one. I’ll post the official blurb of the book down below in the epilogue section.

French Kiss follows a 16 year old girl named Edie as she falls in love with an older guy called Dylan. Edie is kind of your average girl who is trying to figure out who she is. She starts taking a photography class at the local college and in that class she meets Dylan who is an art student. She pretty much falls in love with him at first sight. They somehow get paired up to do a photography assignment together and end up kissing. However, Dylan is the moody type so they end up making out one minute and hating each other the next. Things get more complicated when Edie gets a boyfriend (I think his name is Paul?) but continues her weird, volatile relationship with Dylan. I think Dylan also has a girlfriend. There is also a trip to Paris involved (I can’t remember why) and there’s more making out.

As the name of the trilogy suggests, the book is formatted as a series of diary entries. These entries don’t contain any unnecessary information about Edie’s life. It pretty much only focuses on Dylan-related things.
 

thoughts

When I first read this book, I absolutely loved it. It was one of my favourite books to read. I remember really loving the romance and wanting my own Dylan. I think I was at that age where I was just properly discovering romance so I wanted my own relationship that was just like Edie and Dylan’s. Thinking about it now, their relationship is definitely not ideal. I want to be respected and not be involved in such a hot and cold relationship, where I’d just feel kind of used. But back then, I thought it was super romantic. If I read it now, I might’ve still liked Dylan. I don’t know… it’s hard to think objectively when I spent so many of my early teenage years wanting someone just like Dylan. (Of course, these thoughts are all based on my memories of the book and it’s highly likely that these memories are false).

If I had read this book for the first time now, as a 20-something year old, I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I’ve since read a lot of really moving contemporaries that deal with serious themes, and I don’t think French Kiss would quite compare. I would probably still read it if I was in the mood for an easy, fluffy romance, but I might be a little bit old for it now.

Having said that, this book was very important in my reading history because it really made me want to go out and discover more books. It opened the door to YA for me. Before that, I was reading the Mary-Kate and Ashley books… After reading the Diary of a Crush books, I discovered a lot of amazing YA books in my local library and it fostered my love of reading.
 

Epilogue

New town, new college, new people – Edie’s feeling overwhelmed. What if nobody wants to be her friend? But on her second day something happens that turns her life upside down: Edie spots Dylan. Messy-haired, pouty, frustratingly elusive Dylan. It’s love at first sight!

Fast forward to the college trip to Paris, and things are really hotting up. In between the shopping, the clubbing, the kissing and the making up, something happens that changes both their lives for ever…But do toxic boys like Dylan ever play for keeps?

I think my summary of the book was mostly accurate. Except Edie’s boyfriend is Josh, not Paul. I probably forgot his name because I never wanted him to be with Edie. The Paris trip actually took up more than half of the book, but I remembered it to be a lot less than that. I also forgot about a friend that Edie makes in the book. I think I was so focused on the romance when I was a 13 year old that I kind of overlooked the friendship elements in the book.

From my quick skim over the book, I underestimated the amount of character development in it. Again, I think I was so focused on the romance and the story that I wasn’t really paying attention to what the characters were learning. I think I can definitely appreciate it more now.

I don’t know if I would like it as much if I read it now but I would still think about it favourably. It would be too hard for me to distance myself from all the feelings I had as a little girl. I’m actually quite keen to reread all three of the Diary of a Crush books. I’d be able to appreciate the story and character development more. There are probably bits of humour in it that I would better understand now too.

Sorry this is so rambly. Maybe I’ll update this post after I’ve reread the book.
 

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