Novel: I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski | Goodreads
Release Date: July 11, 2017
I see London, I see France, I see Sydney’s underpants.
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.
Y’all, I cannot believe it took me this long to read another Sarah Mlynowski book. I remember the thrill of reading Bras and Broomsticks under the table in middle school because I was embarrassed by the title. That series was so much fun. After I found Gimme a Call to be kind of meh, it took me a long time to pick up another title by Mlynowski. She has a voice like Lauren Myracle — like an older sister. Never afraid to shy away from the embarrassing or average moments of a teenage girl.
I See London, I See France is easily my favorite. This had a spot-on view of a lot of modern problems teen girls face, including some emotional scenarios to which I relate. I loved that the characters were midway through college, handling that intersection without feeling too mature. Like, it didn’t feel quite as daredevil as Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have), which I liked.
The biggest feature of this book is probably that it’s really damn funny, keeping me laughing throughout all her characters’ antics.
Sydney was fabulous. A helper without rubbing it in your face — all gut and earnestness. She was logical without being bland, and used to being the spine for everyone else. She never did it in a showy way, just quietly made plans and dealt with the frustration of it. With that being said, she also made stupid mistakes, but did her best to own up to them.
I also loved the depiction of her mother, and the ripple effect of her mother’s condition without extremism or dramatization. I was blown away by how well Mlynowski portrayed the effect that the agoraphobia had on Sydney as a person as she confronted all these situations that determined who she would be. There was this moment when she had a panic attack, and it was so well written. I got a better picture for who Sydney was in that moment than at any other point. She won me over for sure.
The chapters were structured by location, which was a nice choice. The details Mlynowski chose to include were so helpful, and I definitely need to reread this book if I ever traipse through Europe. Lots of little hints embedded in a narrative arc that felt so similar to what I might deal with if I ever went abroad. The mini vignettes were giddy at times and sobering at others, packing in a robust experience. Although there weren’t as many locational details as I’m used to in books that take place abroad, I didn’t mind.
I See London, I See France isn’t a book about a girl trying to lose herself or find herself in a foreign country, which is a trope I’m guilty of loving. It’s about what to do when you take yourself along. That sense of being the same person wherever you go, and just encountering a diversity of experience that affects you profoundly. With that being said, it’s not so heavy on the wow-I’m-so-amazed-by-everything-around-me. It’s more like a beach read that just happens to take place in Europe.
Leela was needy but I eventually made my peace with her although she was kind of a jerk to Sydney at times. I empathized with her way too much, more so than I’d like to admit. And trying to figure herself out while addressing the hurt of her cheating ex? It was explained in a way that I could understand and identify with. She struggled to shake off his magnetism. I still wish she hadn’t been so selfish though — it made her unpleasant to read. Props for character development! Leela finding herself! Kat and the others rounded out the entourage nicely.
With all my love for the teen voice included, I will say that it was a little too heavy on modern teen references. They mentioned emojis a lot. But I did appreciate the realism of scenarios. I thought she hit the nail on the head in regards to some aspects of the hookup culture so prevalent in modern collegiate society, as well as some of what you deal with when you go to a different school than your best friend. Some of the lines were straight up from conversations with my friends or stupid text memes I’d feel the need to tag them in. Little details like that. It was quite simply refreshing which isn’t often a label I reply. I loved the mixture of impulse and planning. Everything just clicked.
Although some parts were a bit risqué for a younger crowd, Sarah Mlynowski’s style is pretty sparse, so all the collegiate scenarios that might not be appropriate otherwise were simply conveyed.
While being an accurate reflection of what I see to be a lot of my problems as a college kid, it still functioned in the way it needed to: escapism.
The romance was fun and complicated, although it was too underdeveloped for my taste. (I don’t even have anything to say about Jackson because he frankly wasn’t a huge part of what I saw the book to be about.) The friendships developed and changed. The countries and stories were glorious. It was upbeat, perfectly textured, and a great intro to a ton of different conversations. I’m going to push this on all my friends because I think it’s so worth the read. It’s the type of book I could see a lot of girls I know loving and relating to, while still being different enough from our daily lives.