Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!
Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.
So, I have a lot of feelings about this book and they need to be unpacked.
Those of you who follow me on Goodreads will know that I was immediately taken aback by how similar this books apparent plot was (in the first few chapters) to my current state of life. The twenty-year-old protagonist feels she has been wasting away her college years (by societal standards) by reading and daydreaming so she is going on a risky study abroad in London based in publishing. She thinks this will be a fresh start.
She (Shane) has a family that has typecast her as a goody-two-shoes shy girl and is frequently treated as naïve due to some of her most prominent personality traits, despite being really intelligent. So, with this character type that seemed close to myself and my current life, it was apparent to me immediately I was either going to love this book or absolutely despise it. I could tell from the character’s narrative style early on that I didn’t think it was going to be a favorite…But, I was going to give it a shot either way because having a 20yr old protag in a YA novel is a very cool thing and I was excited.
However, my expectations were let down pretty immediately. The protag was incredibly sensitive and naïve, in a “woe is me” type of way, totally oblivious to how her actions were affecting others. Not to say some people aren’t oblivious, I know I can be, but it read as very childish and annoying at times. I think part of that was the writing style; it had very odd and seemingly forced descriptions of clothing and appearance throughout that made Shane seem oddly young. It reminded me of Wattpad fanfiction I read as a tween, that didn’t even seem that great then.
I was hoping that this would lead back to her overall character development (but it didn’t, and I’ll touch more on that later), because (although still incredibly cringe) it would have made the vibes seem intentional and not the effect of weak writing. Drama with cousins and insecurities related to it are mentioned many times, but it is never really unpacked; we just see the protag have several panic attacks due to it, which seem to be pivotal scenes with absolutely no relevance to the plot… But we never know why…? There were a lot of plot holes in that sense that made it harder to truly connect with Shane and take her seriously as a character.
Then we had the whole… Magic component. Which, I wasn’t expecting but also kind of was because the plot was so corny and weird that nothing was surprising to me. But, what was so…great about Shane that she ended up being “the chosen one” and getting this magic opportunity? Literally, she is just thrown back in time with no context whatsoever. Whose that random redhead woman? Where did she come from? Why did she choose Shane? Why does literally any of this matter and why should we care as readers? None of the fundamental parts of the plot are discussed at all.
And, don’t even start me on the weak-sauce romance. Now, I understand, you can form a connection with someone very quickly, and it did seem like Pilot and Shane had a good connection (? I mean, Shane isn’t like other girls, and his name is *cough* Pilot Penn, so obviously they were meant to be), but the romance was off-putting in a rather odd, obsessive sort of way that, again, read as super shallow and immature. She talks on and on about how she’s never been into dating or boys and then instantly falls for literally the first guy she sees on her “new adventure,” leading to much of her time being wasted obsessing (which was briefly touched upon in the tail end of the book). But, again, I thought that maybe this book would develop or expand on this throughout the plot.
And, it sort of did, but not really. Not only did this book jump from weird plot line to plot line (first it’s about her “list” of things to do, then it’s about her not choosing her own life path, then it’s about all this weird magic, then it’s about getting with Pilot again, then it’s about realizing she’s lowkey obsessed with him in a bad way, then it’s about her kind of trying to get her life together again, then it’s about her getting back with Pilot right after she realized how great she could be on her own? Basically, it jumped around so much that none of the messages were fully developed or truly impactful), and there is no real point or message that is solidified at the end. Like, there’s no…actual plot…or reason we should care as readers.
ANYWAYS, the whole magic plot line which was supposed to show her mistakes and how she could grow from them was incredibly disappointing. Shane really only was able to “correct” her mistakes because she had the newfound maturity and knowledge she had obtained from being six years older than the first time she went to her study abroad. This read to me like as an actual 20yr old Shane was too immature and young to truly get a handle on her life and she needed to be older to actually make any solid and good decisions. As in, this read to me like Shane was totally discrediting her past self and no 20yr old, her or otherwise, would have been able to make good decisions during that time because they just weren’t mature enough.
Instead of being a cute coming of age story, this read to me as incredibly condescending and almost patronizing to the intended audience who are freaking twenty-year-olds. Like, okay kids, this book might inspire you to follow your dreams and go on a study abroad but just know all of your decisions will be terrible and immature and you have no control over that because you are just a dumb teen and if you choose to enjoy yourself or follow your parents advice you will mess everything up for the rest of your life.
All of this to say, I didn’t hate this book, it just definitely does not deserve the hype. I did like the general idea (though I cringed through some of the overly forced descriptions and references), and Shane had a lot of potential to be a great protag. But, honestly, I found pretty much every side character more interesting, complex, and well developed in the story (if we forget the fact they’re all encouraging Pilot to cheat on his GF which is a whole nother story). Shane was a decent character fundamentally, but despite the fact her entire plotline was supposed to be “I’m not going to just let life happen to me, I will make my own decisions,” she did just let life happen to her, and it seemed that much of what she decided was based on the opinions and ideals around her, versus her own. The only thing she had a clear opinion and passion about was her pop culture and book preferences (which like, girl, I understand, but also. So much middle school cringe; you’re a grown woman) and I would have loved to see some more about her. What were her academic motivations? So she didn’t want to be a doctor, but why DID SHE want to be an author/in publishing? So she didn’t get along with her cousins or like attention, but why did she feel okay risking her solid parental relationship?
IDK, this book was cute, and if you’re okay just getting a sweet rom-com that you can’t think much about, go for it. However, it was definitely overhyped for me and was altogether a big let down. (bleh)
EDIT: I know this is written by a BookTuber and a lot of people love her… Despite having been in this community for YEARS I have only seen her face, never watched her videos. I have seen a few people mention that this book reads like some sort of weird fanfiction that she wrote about… herself? Like, these characters and such were a big play off of her own life, and even though I know nothing about this person, it makes total sense. The way it reads reminds me heavily of a fanfiction I would’ve written when I was a tween; tons of references to make it seem relatable, an insecure “anxious” protag who doesn’t seem to suffer from clinical anxiety but seems more like the RANDOMz XD type, and incredibly cringe descriptions. As I said, it’s not a terrible book, it’s just not at all good, and having that background about the author, it now makes a lot more sense. Honestly, hard and disappointing pass from me.
2 out of 5 stars.