Publication Year: 2020
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 320
Rating: 3 stars
Blurb (From GoodReads):
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
I really thought I was going to love this book. I had heard such good things about it, it is a Reese Witherspoon YA Book Club pick (which I usually love), and it sounded like a fun travel novel! While there were some aspects I loved, unfortunately this book did fall a tad flat for me.
To start off with what I liked, I really liked the Cuban culture in this book! I haven’t really read many books including Cuban heritage, so I learned a lot in that aspect, especially in terms of Cuban food. I loved the fact that Lila was a chef. This was what a big portion of the book was about. The author so vividly described the Cuban food Lila was making, to the point I felt like I could almost taste it. It honestly made me want to look up Cuban recipes so I could try them myself!
Along with that, I really liked the exploration of grief in this novel. Lila is dealing with the loss of her Abuela, who was her best friend. I felt like Lila’s reactions and feelings were very realistic, and I liked that the author included it in the story. Lila’s Abuela was the one who taught her how to cook, which was also a very cool element because it made the cooking even more heartfelt.
I also want to mention that I thought it was so cool that this is a novel that takes place in England that doesn’t take place in London! I have never read a book that takes place in Winchester before, and it really made me want to visit the English country side and smaller cities! It definitely was a different feel from the other English novels I have read before.
I wish I could leave a review with all positive comments, because I definitely understand why this story is loved by so many people. It is cute and fun but also has some more serious themes throughout. However, I just did not mesh with Lila as a narrator. I don’t know if it was just me, but it annoyed me to no end that she spent nearly half the book complaining she was in England. Goodness, what I wouldn’t do to be in England right now! I am not sure if it annoyed me so much because I haven’t been able to travel, but it just immediately turned me off from the character. Lila has a really strong connection with her home city, Miami, and I don’t have that connection with my city so maybe that is why I could not emphasize. But I had a hard time caring about Lila because I was just so annoyed.
Along with that, I just did not care about her relationship with Orion at all. I must say, this author had some beautiful romantic scenes interspersed throughout the book. While they were swoony, I felt like they could be about any couple and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I think part of the reason I didn’t care so much is because the stakes just didn’t feel very high. Of course, this doesn’t make any sense because Lila lives in the States and Orion lives in England, so there were potential problems. However, I guessed how the story would end about 60% of the way through so it didn’t really leave many surprises for me.
I do believe that I am starting to outgrow YA contemporary, so that may be where my not-so-great feelings about this book come from. I think this book definitely read as younger, so it just didn’t make me feel as much in my 20s.
Overall, I would recommend this book if you like:
- Learning about new cultures
- Travel novels
- Books exploring grief
- Books that give similar vibes as Anna and the French Kiss
What were your opinions on this book? Let’s chat in the comments below!