I've been extremely hyped to read Meant To Be. I've wanted this book for months. I've mentioned it in numerous blog posts. I've tweeted about it. I threw a pretty big fit when I finally got it in the mail from Amazon. And I decided to give it the dubious honor of being my Valentines Day Read.
No pressure, right?
You've got to be kidding.
I've built books up like this before and it's turned out okay, because they ended up being books I loved. But it was only a matter of time before my pressure cooker ways came back to bite me on the butt, and Meant To Be happened to be their catalyst of choice.
For what it's worth: hype is dangerous. And hype from yourself is likely the most dangerous kind of hype there is. Watch your step, guys. This review could get messy.
Warning: This is one of the most emotional and potentially venomous reviews I've ever written. Read with caution! I seriously lacked a filter here!
(Summary from GoodReads)
Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.
It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.
Meant To Be had all the substance of a piece of bubble gum. There just wasn't anything there.
I know that likely seems like a really weird way to talk about a book. I mean, I wasn't sitting down to read Great Expectations and I wasn't expecting that. But--and this is a big but--one thing I've come to expect from YA contemporary is that it tends to make me think and feel. That even if there is one plot line that has lots of sugar and sunshine, that there is often something deeper at work. Something to really sink my teeth into.
And in this book, that simply was not so.
The trip to England should have been epic, but for me it was ruined by Julia randomly and subconsciously reinventing her character when the only thing *I* found wrong with her was a potential expectation that others should act *like* her. The "romance" between her and Jason was a hot and cold mess that I totally didn't believe in for multiple reasons. And since these two things basically summed up the plot... you do the math. I thought it sucked!
The writing itself was beautiful and descriptive. The author did a good job on her research. But her pacing, her weird characters and the (obnoxious) message I took away from this book--essentially that being a moron is to be commended (Can you tell I didn't like Jason?)--made all of the technical praise I can concede to its credit not matter. Because...
I hated it! (Wow... I don't think I've *ever* said that about a book in a review before. Eep!)
Okay. Now that I've dropped the H-bomb on this poor book's head, I want to make something really clear: my feelings here are very personal. (1) We have the hype train I talked about in my intro. And (2) My actual feelings toward the book, my true reason for despising it, is deeply personal and probably won't effect 99% of those who read it.
Julia: you are okay! You don't need to change (at least, not NEARLY as much as most people think you need to.) It's OKAY to be a planner! It's OKAY to be a bit nerdy / geeky! It's OKAY to have dreams and goals and go after them. And *gasp!* It's OKAY to follow the rules--as long as YOU believe they are right.
It's NOT okay to find love with a boy who makes you feel you need to change the core of who you are in order to receive or be worthy of that "love"--because that is not what love is about! Love is, first and foremost, about accepting and appreciating people for who they already are. *headdesk times 1000!!!*
It's DANGEROUS to go to random parties in a country you've never visited before with a guy who is clearly a moron. It's STUPID to chase some random guy all over a foreign city when you can't remember what he looks like.
Okay, guys. I'll stop.
I thought that I was going to be getting a Lucy and Ed situation from Graffiti Moon, which is one of my favorite books ever. And that totally was not the case here at all. But, let's forget that... Let me yell at Jason now...
To Jason: You, sir, are a moron. I've never seen such an obnoxiously hot and cold "love interest" before, and I hope it's a long time before I see one again. I did not like you. Why you have my boyfriend's name I don't know--though I'll confess that *might* be part of the whole "the problem is me" thing I talked about above. ;) You could be funny, but half the time you were just obnoxious. Could Julia use a bit more fun? Sure. But last time I checked 'fun' and 'pain in the ass' have very different meanings and 3/4 of the time you were a total jerkface to her and if *I* had been your partner on a trip I'm very certain I would've been on the next plane back home.
Now, as a writer I must say that it's obvious that Julia and Jason are both a bit too close to caricatures to really get too mad at them. They took their roles as miss perfect and class clown to such an extreme that they lost a great deal of their realness for me. It's a shame it went this way because it lessened the story, it made them both extremely annoying, and despite all my complaining I think Lauren Morrill had (and has) the potential to do much better. Despite everything I'm saying here, I would not be opposed to trying another book by her in the future.
The rest of the cast really didn't have enough depth for me to really say much to or about them. They did their parts and they didn't really hurt anything or effect why I felt the way I did about this book. Oh: I felt sorry for the poor English teacher. Yeah, that covers it.
I did not buy into this one at all.That's really sad, because I know I am a *lot* like Julia and my own boyfriend, Jay, balances that super uptight I-must-plan-everything and OFFG I can't say / think / feel / do THAT it's *WRONG!!!* aspect of me. It took me years to get to the point that I'm at and, much like Julia, I didn't get the way I am from having anyone breathing down my neck. My family's really chill. It's just the way I am.
(The huge difference between Julia and I--and the one thing I felt she needed to learn--was that it's fine to be the way we are, but it's not fine to expect anyone else to live up to our expectations for ourselves. That is unrealistic and does not work. We are a tip on the iceberg that is humanity and I do NOT blame people for not wanting to go near it! Forget how crazy we drive you and think for a moment how crazy we drive ourselves, because it *does* happen and it can be a daily struggle to remove head from butt and realize our anal retentive tendencies usually aren't going to be things that will end the world...)
On a random and slightly amusing note: Jay predicted this book might tick me off. ;)
A guy like Jason (the hero of this book) would have been someone I would have kept as far away from as possible, because in real life a Jason would totally annoy me. But if he had worked well with Julia--if they had helped each other grow, rather then the book seeming to idolize his behavior and vilify hers, maybe I could have gotten behind these two more then I did. However, that is not the case (on both accounts).
And again: the hot and cold thing with his attitude just really ticked me off. I would not put up with that and I don't like the idea of Julia putting up with it, either. Getting together with a guy who is a totally barf inducing jerkwad does not meet my definition for a "Happily Ever After". (The ending itself is 'right'--my problem with it is the character who causes that ending, since I didn't like him.)
Okay, first my reaction: I can't remember the last time I was so utterly, heart-shatteringly, tear-inducingly disappointed in a book. I feel sad and angry and (this is going to sound weird...) betrayed. This one actually *hurt* to the point that I got all that fantastic stuff for my birthday and I haven't been able to bring myself to touch any of it--even now, two weeks later--because I am still reeling with grief over this novel. I honestly don't know how to move forward, and I *need* to because I know I have stuff I need to get read. (Both my stuff and review stuff.) I don't want to taint another book with my sorrow and rage and the slimy-gutted feeling of emptiness I'm left with over this one.
Now, my recommendation: Please, once again I want to make it very clear that my reaction to Meant To Be was deeply personal. There is a lot here that is well written and I can understand how many other readers have sat down with this book and totally loved it. It just wasn't for me, and it's level of 'not for me' was on a strong and almost repugnant level of not for me that I hope takes another two years of blogging (or more, please God let it take more time...) before I witness it again.
If YOU are interested in reading this novel, you should go for it. (Provided something I've said doesn't trigger something from you, obviously.) But did I like it? I already answered that earlier, and I don't want to type that again. Words have power, you know.