One of the best ways to travel, as a mother of three children, who cannot take a month off from life to backpack around Europe is to read books! I love picking up books set in Europe because it is one of my greatest dreams to travel the continent someday and soak in the rich history and beautiful sights. Unfortunately, in it not in the cards…or the budget during this phase of my life. When I saw I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski was published this summer, I was quick to add it to my reading list. In this case, I loved my free trip around Europe, but I didn’t quite enjoy my travel partners.
Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.
As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera…wearing only her polka-dot underpants.
Sarah Mlynowski did an excellent job of creating an experience of reading this novel. I felt as if I able to get a real tour of multiple European countries and learn a few bits of info that I hadn’t previously known before, mainly about Amsterdam. As the characters traveled around, readers are introduced to each new place, more than just London and France, and many of the great tourist activities these places offer. I thoroughly enjoyed the detail in each activity and location, allowing me to feel as if I was experiencing it with the characters.
My main issue with the novel, however, was the immaturity of the characters. Maybe I am showing my age in feeling an inability to connect with younger characters and the issues they face. Though, I doubt this is entirely the case because I have read some thoroughly enjoyable YA lately.
Sydney’s best friend, Leela, was incredibly infuriating for me to read about, as was Sydney’s weakness in standing up to Leela’s childish demands. The majority of the plot was spent with the characters either running from boys or running back to the same boys. Sydney and Leela never could stick to a plan for their trip, usually changing where they wanted to visit based on Leela’s demands or feelings. While I’m all for spontaneity, I was ready for Sydney to drop her friend and travel the way she wanted to, uninhibited and free of Leela’s silly whims.
One of the biggest disappointments was Leela conveying that Sydney needed to make out with multiple guys to truly have a great vacation and European experience. This is not something I would want any young girl to feel pressured to do, and I can’t help but think how reading this novel may negatively influence young women. Kissing multiple boys should not be the objective of vacation before college and make or break the experience. I was really disconcerted by this message, and wish the author would have left this aspect out of the story.
In the end, I could only give this novel a middle-of-the-road rating of three stars. There were some things about the story I really enjoyed, but other things I wasn’t quite fond of. I think I may have enjoyed this book more when I was younger, as the mom in me tends to picture my daughter in some of the situations the characters found themselves in, which makes me uncomfortable and frankly, sad to think about. Even so, many readers have loved this book and it may be just right for you, too. If you’re looking for a quick read and free “vacation”, I See London, I See France will certainly transport you! Find the link to purchase below.