Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 393
Just my cup of tea
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Ellie lives in Washington D.C. and attends an elite school, even though the tuition is a stretch for her single mother. She and her friend Crystal work at a smoothie shop, and Ellie is super excited to be going to the birthday party of Andy, a schoolmate and customer on whom she has a big crush. She thinks that he feels the same way, so when he starts a big announcement, she assumes it is directed at her. She is wrong, and the resultant social fallout is cruel. Through some parental sleight of hand, she manages (at some cost, partly borne by her long absent father) to get enrolled in a study abroad program. Her mother is a huge Anglophile, and is glad she is able to send Ellie. Ellie just wants to get away from school, since she's not that invested in any friends there, she also loves England, and the idea of a "hot British boyfriend" makes up for her embarrassment. She's a little alarmed that the other students from her school are all very driven honors students. Her roommate, Sage, is involved in research work in London, and Ellie is taking the easiest courses she can find, so she can experience life in the UK. During an outing to a nearby town with Dev and Huan, she meets Will and his friend Frank. Will is every swoonworthy thing Ellie ever imagined. He's a few years older, isn't in school, but is working in real estate for his very wealthy father. He finds Ellie charming, and is soon whisking her away from school to see the sights. Dev is a bit concerned, but since Huan is interested in Frank (and vice versa), she gets help from her friends in maintaining the relationship. This makes school work even more difficult, and also involves Ellie learning a lot about cricket and other things she doesn't really care about, but is willing to cultivate to insure that Will remains interested. Dev helps with her school work as well as her cricket knowledge. The US students are given a lot of freedom, and soon Ellie is meeting Will in London, and even plans a trip with her friends to Venice. Will and Frank plan to meet the school group there, and there is some discussion about whether Will and Ellie will use the opportunity to take their relationship to the next level. Ellie is somewhat relieved when Will's father won't let him come, but her apprehension returns when Will starts to talk about studying in the States. He's everything she wanted in a boyfriend, so why does she feel more comfortable with Dev?
Good Points
While the characters are in high school, middle school readers LOVE reading about other people being embarrassed, so the beginning of the book is rather brilliant. The circumstances that lead to Ellie being able to go to the school are a bit contrived, but work. I loved the school itself, and the fact that Ellie was shown trying to keep up with her school work AND make the most of being in England. Ellie is interested in gardening, and it's fun to watch her explore that a little bit with the woman in charge of the conservatory. Will is so intriguing, but also a bit too good to be true, and Ellie's attempts to understand cricket prove that while women have come a long way, there are still some problems with finding equitable relationships. It's good to see her develop one with Dev. Sage is great as the driven roommate, and Frank and Huan's relationship is never discussed as anything unusual or noteworthy. The travel is, of course, the best part. The cover is brilliant!

Something about Will set off ALL of my warning bells, and I spent the entire book on the edge of my seat thinking he was a creeper like David in the film An Education! I suppose that feeling adds to the frisson of excitement that Ellie finds with him, but as a mother whose daughter studied in Ireland for a while, it just made me nervous!

I'm always looking for teen romances that are appropriate for middle school readers, and this was good in several regards. There was the phrase "having sex" and a discussion of a mother giving her daughter condoms, but nothing graphic. This was an interesting depiction of a girl learning to be on her own and navigate life, and I think this will resonate with my readers who have moved on to high school books and topics. Definitely purchasing, and was tickled to find out that the author lives in my area!
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