Author: Kristy Boyce
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Audiobook Length: 9 hours 57 minutes
After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.
When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.
But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.
Elle (“Ellie”) Nichols is a 17-year-old high school student at Waterford Valley High School in Washington DC. She works at a smoothie shop and has a few friends, but not many as she recently moved there. She believes she is making progress as she has a best friend that she hangs out with named Crystal and a boy she likes named Andy. Ellie believes that Andy likes her back, so we start the story with her excited about the possibility. It essentially is the perfect introduction to this character as she is completely boy crazy. Every waking moment her thoughts revolve around boys and it did not seem to let up at all throughout the entire novel. Therefore, if this is something that could bother you, then this might not be the right read.
During Andy’s birthday party an extremely embarrassing incident happens and I honestly felt extreme second-hand embarrassment for her. However, it was very preventable. You should read the novel to actually figure out what it is, but to me there is another equivalent that is embarrassing. Imagine someone you know is waving at you, so you wave back. It turns out that they were waving at someone behind you. This in itself is embarrassing, but what makes it worse is that the incident was filmed and went viral meaning that Ellie could not simply forget and move on as it is constantly brought up. Due to this unfortunate incident, Ellie decided to pursue a last minute opening in the study abroad program that would take her to the UK for four months (the fall semester of school).
This program, though, is only for honors students, but Ellie was allowed as they wanted to fill the last minute opening. Therefore, she is not only a fish out of water in a new country, but in a new academic setting as the average student among geniuses. Personally, I was super envious as this program did not exist for any student, so I wish it did and I could have done this at her age. Now that Ellie is in a new setting, she takes it as a fresh start and her first goal is to get a new hot British boyfriend. Along the way, she makes a new group of unlikely friends with Dev, Huan, and Sage. Sage is the extremely driven student who already has her life planned out for her all the way through grad school. Juan is the more carefree individual, who is still brilliants. Dev is the mixed bag where at first he seems more serious, but his character has some fun twists the more both the reader and Ellie get to know him.
Ellie eventually meets Will, a hot 19-year-old British guy, and the two of them start a relationship. The hardest part is that Ellie hides part of who she is as she does not believe he will accept that part of her. Although I did not find myself caring much for Will, as he was just okay, I loved this journey for Ellie. Her overall experience is a great life lesson to always be her and if people do not accept you, then it is okay and you can move on. This theme is touched on with multiple characters in this novel and I loved that I learned about a brand new hobby called fairy gardening. I have seen them around plenty of public gardens, in other countries, and sometimes sold on places like Etsy, but I never really thought of it as a hobby. It actually looked really cute and fun and might be something to give a try in the future.
I loved the setting of the manor in Northampton for the school and dorms and also the inclusion of London. As someone who lived in London for a year (~2017), I felt that the author described the magic someone feels on their first visit. The UK is definitely an awe-inspiring place as it just has something about it that is breathtaking and is increased tenfold if you are a fan of Jane Austen and Harry Potter. The flow of this story seamlessly integrated the setting and the plot that was a very entertaining read. The characters were very enjoyable and I loved all of them in one way or another. Ellie was hit or miss for me, but still great overall. She did go through a lot of growth, but I do not feel that she fully learned from her mistakes from the past.
Overall, I love the theme of friendship. Ellie starts off with students that seem like they could be her friends, but they did not turn out well. She meets a new group and goes into it without expectations and it turns out for the best. I loved the lesson given that your friends may not be actual friends, so it is important to find friends that are true. As Ellie is very boy crazy, there were times where you just felt sorry for her as she is given the opportunity of a lifetime and she is focused on boys. Even when she dates Will, she misses out on so much time to visit sites she always wanted to see, such as those featured in Jane Austen. When I was her age, I absolutely would have taken every change to travel and see everything I could, but I do have tons of friends that would have been similar to Ellie, so although I do not fully agree, it is very believable and relatable. As a YA romance book, you essentially go into the beginning while knowing the ending. However, it was still a very fun read and I would read more from this author!