(26/1/17) Book Review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.
Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

When I was younger, I LOVED Sarra Manning as an author. ‘Guitar Girl’ was one of my first favourite books, the kind I would force on all of my friends to read and then be outraged when they didn’t love it as much as me. The Diary of a Crush series was my first real jump from young young adult, to young adult involving proper boys, proper relationships, and, shock-horror-gasp, sex. I recently reread ‘Guitar Girl’ a few months ago, and while there was that nostalgia from when I was younger, and I could see why 14 year old me loved this book so much, 23 year old me was frustrated with how the girl always fell for the ‘bad’ boy, when bad just meant was a dick, manipulative, abusive, and totally unworthy of her time, attention, or affections. But this was a theme across many young adult literature that I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid since becoming aware of it a few years ago.

Going into London Belongs to Us, I was skeptical about how good it would actually be. I think I originally heard about this book through someone mentioning it on YouTube, and I was like ‘Sarra Manning has a new book out???’, especially because I have another of hers on my bookshelf waiting to read, which is more targeted at adults than young adults, and I wondered if this would be the same. However, by the time I came around to it I had completely forgotten what the plot was meant to be and so went  it to reading it expecting a surprise.

This is 100% young adult. And I really loved reading it. It follows Sunny as she spends one night running backwards and forwards across London looking for her boyfriend who she’s just found out has cheated on her. She meets a wide array of different characters throughout the book, and grows as a person massively throughout the 12 hours it’s set across.

As someone who is not from London, has only visited briefly one or two times and isn’t really familiar with many parts of the city, the little intro to each chapter was interesting and quirky, and I really enjoyed those bits.

What I absolutely loved was how diverse the cast is. Compared to, well, the young adult genre as a whole, which I will admit is more diverse than others but still needs work, but mostly, compared to what else I’ve read by Sarra Manning, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of diversity. But she delivered.

A lot of race issues are brought up, as Sunny is mixed raced herself, and as she finds herself and her voice, she is able to shut down people who are offensive to her, even without meaning to be, and educated those on why their behaviour is inappropriate. Although it seemed a little bit of a drastic personality change overnight, I was thrilled to see a young adult book that was fun and adventurous, while also having strong female characters who grow in confidence, and who learn to overcome the negative, sexist things they’ve been taught it okay (such as calling each other skanks, sluts etc).

However, one downside for me, was how much of it revolved around sex. I know that the whole point of the book was that Sunny was meant to be sleeping with her boyfriend that night until he ruined it, but it’s just one more addition to a huge pile of YA novels where girls are always thinking about losing their virginity and trying to have sex. And that’s cool! Girls everywhere should be able to have sex without comment, and I love YA books that encourage young girls to explore their sexuality, and own their sexuality in the same way boys are told to. I just wish there was more YA where there was no romance, no desire to have sex. I want their lives to revolve around something else. But I guess I picked up the wrong book for that. My bad.

For what it was, I thought this book was really great, and was so glad to read some more of Sarra Manning. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars on my Goodreads which you can check out here

Katie

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