Title: Meant to Be by Lauren MorrillI used to be a pretty big contemporary fan when I was younger (The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen happens to be one of my all time favorite books.) but I've always been a genre fan at heart, and as the years went by, I somehow abandoned ‘chick lit’ all together . (Which I find interesting because I still love rom coms, especially the classics such as While You Were Sleeping, and When Harry Met Sally, etc. ) I think for books though, I usually need something extra to pull me in – whether it be magic, dystopian settings, alternate realities, sword-toting bad-ass heroines, or even zombies – my imagination is...grand. The point is, for a contemporary to draw me in these days, it has to be really, really special and stand out above 99% of all the ones out there. I haven’t read one in years, and I hadn't planned on reading any this year. That was until I stumbled up on Meant to Be on Goodreads several months back. As soon as I saw the cover and the premise, something about it really stood out to me, so much that I pre-ordered it. It was like, it was calling out to me, ‘Shauna, I know you don’t read really contemporary books that much anymore, but you MUST.READ.ME OR ELSE!”
Page count: 304 pages (hardcover edition)
Goodreads rating: 3.93
Published on: November 13th, 2012
Buy it via: Amazon|B&N|Book Dep
Rating: 5/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: 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.
Well, I have to say my instincts really paid off this time, because basically it all comes down to this: I want to scream, I love this book, off the rooftops! Meant to Be, has earned itself in my top ten books of 2012, and a contemporary that I want to live inside forever, (when I didn't think that was possible anymore!) I have to bow down to Lauren Morrill right now because this book singlehandedly not only recaptured my love for chick lit, but transported me back to my teen years; to a simpler, more magical time, where everything and anything feels possible. After reading Meant to Be, I had the biggest (and I'm sure the cheesiest) smile plastered on my face, because it made me downright slap-me- silly-I'm so-happy-I'm-delirious. I nearly bounced around the house like a child who ate too much candy, and you know what, that felt great, and isn't this why we read in the first place? (by the way, I'm still smiling almost 48 hours later.) What can I say? It was MTB!
Meant to Be focuses on the character of Julia, who when the book first opens, is on a plane, and she is on her way to London with the rest of her class, for their junior class trip. Julia is the kind of girl who would rather read a book than go to a party. Julia even acquired the nickname, “book licker’ when she was in junior high. She is the epitome of a planner, and someone who lives to play by the rules and definitely someone who needs order in her life. Julia is obsessed with the idea that this guy named Mark is her “MTB” (her “Meant to Be”) who is ‘perfect’ in every single way. That love is a ‘perfect’ fairytale. Jason, (her classmate) on the other hand, is the class clown and Julia’s personal nemesis, as he craves constant attention similar to a 10-year-old boy, loves to chomp on grape bubble gum, and lives to break the rules, and certainly doesn't believe in the concept of a ‘MTB’. (Did I mention he’s a ginger?! I'm a bottle ginger, but power to the gingers!) When Julia and Jason get paired up as ‘buddies’ for the entirety of the trip, the story truly begins. What ensues is a heartwarming, absolutely hilarious love story adventure, set in the enchanting backdrop of London. (For everyone out there who always dreamed of going to London, or just has a thing for London settings, this is the book for you!)
I have no patience for romances where the characters have to compromise everything they are as individuals in order to be together. What I love about the characterization in Meant to Be is that these characters are allowed to stay who they are on the inside, while still being allowed to grow and change and learn, together. The message is clear: You don’t have to change who you are to be with someone, and you shouldn't have to. It’s OKAY for Julia to be a bookworm, and for Jason to be the life of the party, but that’s not all they are, because Meant to Be teaches us that people don’t fit into these tiny little boxes, where one person can be only be one thing. You can be a lot of little things, and different people bring out different sides of you. Life can be unpredictable, and it isn't black and white. It’s a heck of a lot more grey. Your impressions of people often don’t match up to reality. Morrill builds up Julia and Jason’s connection in such a completely genuine and satisfying way, their chemistry leaps off the page, vibrant, and true. It was like they are more than characters in a book, they are real, and you desperately want more than anything for them to see in each other, what you see in them together. Maybe they are MTB, maybe they aren't but the point is, they share something deeply special, and you know what? That means something, and it’s worth taking a risk. Because even if the person you fall in love with doesn't stack up to what you perceived as your idea of the ‘perfect’ person, that doesn't make it any less true, it just means that we are all complex than we realized, and sometimes the best things in life come from unexpected people, places and things, and we owe it to ourselves to give the unexpected a chance.
Ultimately, Meant to Be is not only an absolutely amazing debut but it’s everything a book in this genre should be and more. It’s sweet, funny, endearing, and incredibly touching. Most of all, it’s honest, and surprising. Morrill brilliantly proves that it’s possible to construct a love story without the typical clichés that often plague this genre. I'm so beyond excited to see what she comes up with next. If you haven’t read any contemporaries in 2012 yet, let Meant to Be, be the one! (Cause you know it’s totally MTB!)