Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill: review and interview

Julia's dream visit to London had not included being partnered with her arch nemesis. Popular Jason will do anything for a laugh, especially at straight-A Julia's expense. When Jason accepts an invitation to a stranger's party, she feels compelled to go with her partner. Too hungover to enjoy sightseeing the next day, Julia regrets her choice. She gets a flirty text from Chris and can't even remember who he was. Jason offers to help her track down the mysterious British texter if she'll write his class papers. The two embark on a wild-text chase that leads them from a graffiti art skateboard park and to other quirky places.

The Cranley Hotel, London by Sarah Laurence
Meant to Be is Lauren Morrill's first novel, but she writes like a seasoned pro. She gets how teens act and talk today and knows what will appeal to her target audience. Her descriptions of London are spot on if a bit touristy, but that is appropriate for this story. Meant to Be is teen tour England. American girls will adore it. With its fun setting, snappy dialogue and slapstick humor, the book would translate well to the movie screen.

If there were an award for best use of cell phones in a novel, Meant to Be would win a trophy. Modern technology is a big problem for storytellers. Cell phones allow characters to connect too easily and texting can disrupt the narrative flow. This debut author cleverly exploits mobile phones to her narrative advantage. Every chapter starts with a text that drives the action. This was a smart editorial choice because readers will want to scroll back through those texts after reaching the final page. I can't explain why without a spoiler, but the ending is both hilarious and satisfying.

Lauren's musical inspiration: The Beatles
Fans of Anna and the French Kiss and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight will enjoy Meant to Be as well. Although there is sexually crude humor and teen drinking, there are consequences and the central romance is quite tame. I'd recommend this book for girls aged 12 and up. Their moms might enjoy it too. My British American daughter is looking forward to reading it over vacation.

My Interview of Lauren Morrill

Photo of Lauren by Steven Folkins

Lauren as a high school senior on a trip to Park City, Utah
Sarah: Why did you choose to write for teens? 

Lauren: I've always heard that you should write the book you want to read, and I have always loved reading YA. All of my favorite books are young adult, and so when it came time to start working on my own novel, YA is what came pouring out. I think my inner voice is permanently sixteen years old. 

What inspired you to write Meant to Be

I love romance and comedy, so when I started working on Meant to Be I knew that those elements would be a huge part of the plot. The book draws a little on Cyrano de Bergerac, one of my favorite classics, so that was also a big inspiration.

 Since you were living in Boston, how did you research the U.K. setting?

Believe it or not, I've actually never been to London! I did a lot of internet research, including making some really intricate Google Maps to keep track of scenes and characters. Thank god for Google street view!

Good job on the online research! I’ve lived in London for two years, and you introduced me to new places. Did you make up offbeat locations or are they real places? 

All the locations are real places. Some of them have been renamed just for fiction purposes, but every restaurant, every hotel, every shop actually exists in some corner of London or another!

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben by Sarah Laurence 2008
Was the mobile phone plot device there from the beginning?

Yep, Meant to Be was always meant to be (hey, see what I did there?) a comedy of errors full of misdirection and missed connection based off the phone issue. With everyone so connected to to their devices, it seemed inevitable.

Who are some of your favorite young adult authors?

I love Sarah Dessen, Megan McCafferty, Stephanie Perkins, John Green ... oh man, I could go on and on. I love YA contemporaries in general, and romance and comedy specifically.

What is the best writing advice you received?

Lauren as a teen rock climber
Don't build any habits regarding where you write or what you need to write. Teach yourself to write anywhere under any circumstances, so that no matter where you are or what's happening around you, you can work on your novel.

 That's sound advice. Can you tell us about your next novel? 

My next novel is called Being Sloane Jacobs, and it's another contemporary comedy. It's told in dual perspectives, and I'm pitching it as The Parent Trap meets The Cutting Edge. It'll be out January 7, 2014.

Thanks, Lauren, I'm looking forward to reading more of you books!

Reviewer's Disclaimer: I bought the ebook on its November 13th release day and received no compensation. Beware of puns such as: "meant to be or not meant to be."

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@Barrie Summy


Rose said...

I always enjoy your interviews with the author, Sarah. I'm surprised that Lauren has never been to London, but was able to create a believable setting there anyway. The texting premise sounds clever and sure to appeal to YA readers.

I meant to get a review done this month, but with the holidays, I just ran out of time. By the way, I just finished "Gone Girl"--I didn't care for it at first (didn't like Amy), but it got me hooked and stayed up late the last few nights to find out how it ended. Kind of a spooky ending.

Commonweeder said...

What a great post. I really enjoy interviews with authors. Their work is so mysterious. Many thanks.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I stay away from writing about teens for exactly the reasons you outline here. Too many years between me and them. Although my daughter's last two books have been about them. She is half the distance as me.

Sarah Laurence said...

Rose, I didn't like either of the narrators but I still enjoyed Gone Girl. It was spooky! Thanks for sharing your reaction.

Commonweeder, I enjoyed your book review too.

Patti, I spend more time around teens than adults these days so I speak the language. That's nice to hear that your daughter inherited your writing gene.

Ellen Booraem said...

Another great review/interview package, Sarah! Love the Cyrano connection--very clever to apply that to a texting society. I'm more of a fantasy fan, but this one sounds like it would be fun.

Alyson | New England Living said...

Great post, Sarah! And I think you just gave me a gift idea for 15 year old for Christmas!

Sarah Laurence said...

Ellen, and you get me to read more fantasy. It's a fair trade.

Alyson, I think you and your daughter would love it.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds like a fun read, and your photos of London added a lot to the review. I was there in 2003 and would love to go back. The author interviews are always a nice touch.

I don't write for teens either. No kids and I'm not around them much. Good point about how much difference cell phones & texting have made for writers. It's sad to see an end to the plot complication possibilities of a lack of communication. ;)

Barrie said...

As usual, I enjoyed your review/interview. The texting trick sounds quite brilliant!

Rose: I also didn't like the Gone Girl narrators. And I really didn't like the ending. But, still, the book was a page turner for me. BTW, Gillian Flynn just sold a YA to Delacore Press/Random House. ;)

A Cuban In London said...

I was starting to miss your interviews. I loved this one for many reasons.

One is that Lauren challenged the notion of "write about what you know". Shed never been to London and yet that was no deterrent.

Second reason is that she wrote the book she wanted to read herself. That's so important even if it sounds quite obvious. But so many writers (I won't mention names) go for the Big Issue and forget about the entertainment value. Are you please with the novel yourself? Would you pick it up in a bookshop? If not, then, why write it?

Third reason you mentioned it and I will take your word for it. technology. It's either passive in modern fiction or it gets in the way sometimes. It's great to hear of someone who knows how to deploy technology in her writing wisely.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Amanda Summer said...

great review - and i like her advice about not needing one particular place to get writing done.

Gloria Baker said...

Thia ia a really nice and interesting post Sarah:)!

greetings from Chile!

Sarah Laurence said...

Amanda, fine advice indeed.

Gloria, thank you and welcome to my blog! I enjoyed visiting yours too.