Falling in Love with English Boys
Author: Melissa Jensen
Publisher: Speak (Penguin Group)
Pub Date: December 23, 2010
Format: ARC (pilfered from ARC shelf at work...shhhh!)
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer—no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something—anything—to do in London while her (s)mother’s off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her—and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat’s only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival—the uber-hot descendant of Katherine—and things start looking up . . .--Goodreads
When I picked this book up, I figured it'd be a mindless, formulaic, chick-lit read. You know, one where girl goes somewhere new, girl meets charming boy, charming boy likes her, they have some sort of fight, and then at the end things are hunky-dory by some bit of fateful magic that doesn't really exist. In some ways, that's what Falling in Love with English Boys is. But I don't want to trivialize it, because it's better than that.
What saves this book from being just another teen chick-lit is debut author Jensen's humor, wit, and command of two very different writing styles. Although the story is primarily about Catherine Vernon, it is also the story of Katherine Percival, an 18-year-old girl living in 1815, and believe you me, the girls have WAY more in common than just their first name.
My favorite aspect of this book is that it is told in diary form throughout. Jensen writes as both Catherine in present day and Katherine in 1815, and she handles the stylistic transitions brilliantly. She also does a fantastic job of bringing a girl from the oh-so Romantic-seeming era of the early-1800s, where everyone is supposedly demure and charming and Elizabeth Bennett-y, and made Katherine Percival seem like a real person who gets mad and is insecure and a little more boy-crazy than she probably should be. It was really refreshing, actually, and made me feel like less of a basket-case. (Ha!)
Now it's time to talk about the boy: William Percival. Will is British. Will is smart. Will is funny. Will is caring. Will will inherit a title. (!!!!!!) Will is sort of perfect. Okay, I'll stop with the short sentences. Overall, Will did the job as the leading man just fine. And though he had all the requisite characteristics and charms, I wanted more . . . I don't know, edge or passion or a motorcycle. Hell, I would have settled for a drum set. I like my boys a little rough around the edges, and I think Will could have used just a dash of that "you-know-I'm-bad-for-you-but-you-just-can't-say-no" salt.
Anyway, the book is bouncy and light for the most part, but Jensen also throws in some plot curveballs that remind us just how random and unfair life can sometimes be--this is esepcially showcased in Catherine's friendship with Elizabeth, a gorgeous and politically-minded girl from a Muslim family and in Katherine's brother, Charles, who is among the troops who fought the Battle of Waterloo. Although both are minor characters, you learn to love them, and their stories bring a sense of reality and weight to the otherwise plucky story.
Overall, Falling in Love with English Boys is surprisingly fun and extremely charming. It's a little reminiscent of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series, which I am still mourning the finale of, and made me laugh a lot. It's a quick, light, but worthwhile read if you're in the mood for a little British romance, both modern and Austen-ish. And let's be honest, girls (and boys!) like us are almost always in the mood for a little British romance.