Meant to Be. by Lauren Morrill. November 13, 2012. Delacorte. 256 pages. ISBN: 9780385741774
If Julia had her way, she wouldn’t be spending the class trip to England partnered with the uncouth and obnoxious class clown, Jason. Instead, she’d prefer to be snuggled up to her MTB (meant to be), Mark, with whom she had a brief childhood romance years ago. Fate is what brought her parents together after all, and even after her dad’s death, she just knows that they had the kind of perfect relationship she wants for herself. Being partners with Jason changes Julia, however - she starts breaking rules, sneaking out, flirting with foreign boys, and when she least expects it, seeing Jason in a whole new light that leads her to realize fate might have something in mind for her that isn’t in her careful plans.
This young adult novel by debut YA author Lauren Morrill has a great set-up that provides a lot of tension and suspense. I love romances where opposites attract, and pairing the good girl and the class clown always makes for lots of interesting possibilities. I like that Morrill doesn’t just focus the story on Julia letting her hair down and learning to have fun; she also makes sure the reader sees the ways in which Julia has underestimated Jason as unintelligent and immature. Thankfully, this is not a “She’s All That” sort of story, where the nerdy girl is made over and suddenly becomes appealing to the popular boy she likes. Morrill’s story is much more realistic and allows Julia to maintain her core identity even as she makes minor changes to her view of romance.
The European setting will appeal to readers who have latched onto books like 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Anna and the French Kiss, and Flirting in Italian. Because the students are given cultural hours during their trip, Julia and Jason get to explore a lot of different streets and neighborhoods in London, which make the travel side of the story as interesting as the romance. There is also an element of mystery when Julia begins receiving mysterious romantic texts from an unknown number and Jason vows to help her find the sender.
The plot takes a definite disappointing turn about two-thirds of the way through the book. A certain character appears in London out of the blue in a way that doesn’t feel plausible, and though that person’s presence does serve to bring the romance to its obvious conclusion, it annoys me that he appears in the story solely to serve that purpose and not for any other reason. I don’t want to spoil the story outright, so I’ll leave it that, but I wish the author had done something else to tie up that story thread. The mystery storyline does have a great resolution, however. I suspected a twist, but did not predict what actually happens, and it was a nice surprise to find that I was on the right track, but definitely wrong.
Meant to Be has its weaknesses, but overall it’s a feel-good story about fate, chance, and hope that will please high school romantics who like realistic love stories with flawed, well-developed main characters. This book is out today, November 13.
I received a digital ARC of Meant to Be from Random House via NetGalley.
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