Ahhh…just what I needed. The balm that soothed this soul overflowing with tedium and the seriousness of some books.
The Low Down: Catherine Vernon has no choice in the matter; her mom, or “(s)mother,” as she secretly calls her, is spending the summer in London researching Mary Percival, a not-particularly-well-known female author from the Regency Period. Though Cat would have much preferred to stay with her dad, her father’s fiance has taken over the guest bedroom to store all of her samples and Brides magazines. Since she can’t stay in Philly alone, Cat grudgingly accompanies her mother overseas.
(S)mother brings home a copy of a diary that was written by Katherine Percival, Mary’s daughter, when she was around Cat’s age. Having no interest in reading what she imagines will be a boring retelling of her day-to-day existence, Cat finds she’s right…initially.
She reads the diary, writes her own (in blog form), makes some great local girlfriends and wonders about Will, one of Mary’s descendants, who is a tall, handsome, blue-eyed guy her own age. She discovers many parallels between her life and Katherine’s, a girl nearly 200 years older than Cat. In the process, learns that some things are, unfortunately, out of your control. But the outcome of some things definitely aren’t.
Best Thang ‘Bout It: If you know me at all, you know that I have favorites. British Chick Lit. Jane Austen. England. Handsome boys who smirk and have dimples and snarky senses of humor that cover up a sensitive soul. (OK, maybe you didn’t know that last one, but, come on. Duh.) So this is the British equivalent of the whole enchilada in one book. This story alternates back and forth between the present and the past. And the thing about the past is (excuse me for stating the obvious) it’s done. As a reader, all you can do is wait, knowing that the war you’re reading about was the worst ever, knowing things that a diary keeper won’t know for possibly some time. Now granted, it’s still fiction, so the author can feel free to make up what a particular character will do or what will happen to him/her, but there is a sense of poignancy, especially if a character is about to embark on The Titanic or be in San Francisco April 18, 1906.
Both stories start off showing each girl in a depth typical of many girls of that age, which is to say, not very deep at all. Self-centered, immature, looking for shallow amusements. As time passes, each gains an awareness of things beyond them, an acceptance for the shortcomings of some around them, and a realization that they, themselves, are much more than they seem. And they are worthy.
I’m Cranky Because: Books like this always end too soon for me. I know, there’s not much more to say, but it is still…
And as an aside: I don’t like to read anyone else’s reviews before I write mine, but I did happen to see a couple of comments on Goodreads. Apparently, some thought the modern-day Catherine a bit whiny and selfish. I just say a sarcastic “uh, really?” to that complaint. Here’s a girl who is leaving her friends for the summer and going off to a place where she knows no one. She’s mostly going to be alone while her mom works on something that sounds boring. It doesn’t matter if a girl gets to travel to London or Paris or Auckland. Even if the spoken language is supposed to be English, a lot of times it is unrecognizable. If you have traveled at all and stayed in one area for a while, it can be difficult and bring on teary thoughts of the stupid stuff you miss (“My DVR!” “Taco Bell!” “Driving!” “The shampoo I like!” “Not having to stay ‘sparkling’ or ‘still’ when ordering water!”). So, in turn, it makes me wonder if those who condemn Catherine for being so stupid about a trip of a lifetime have traveled much themselves, especially unwillingly. So, that’s today’s rant.
The Bottom Line: if you like the sort of book where a person grows up a little, has the possibility of a romance and maybe gets an appreciation of her (gasp) mother, then go for it!
Falling in Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen was published December 23, 2010 by Speak. Ink and Page purchased this book, so no one had a choice about whether it was reviewed.
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction Romance Historical
Ages: 12 and up
You Might Want to Know: Nothing of note.