Written by Sarra Manning
Published June, 2016 by Hot Key Books
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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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.
London Belongs to Us is a fun little contemporary read full of pop culture references and colourful characters. But, despite the fun I had reading it, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing.
“Being a strong, independent woman is all well and good but it sounds like the tagline for an anti-perspirant. I’d rather just be Sunny, who can be quite the badass when she needs to.”
Our lead character, Sunny, is pretty standard when London Belongs to Us begins. To be honest I wasn’t sure that I was that into her as a protagonist, but by the end of the book I was surprised to found that my opinion about her had changed. Probably the best part about this book is how much Sunny grows and changes (in a positive way!) after her journey across London in the span of one night.
Sunny and her friend Emmeline are pretty ‘juvenile’ when it all begins. Beginning their afternoon in Crystal Palace, we’re flooded with the stock-standard teen drama of cheating boyfriends, high school crushes and abbreviated text messages. I was beginning to wonder if this was the book I had been expecting when I read the synopsis… Things quickly got shaken up, however, when Sunny attempts to find said cheating boyfriend, Mark, and comes across her first obstacle – the fact that the trains aren’t working.
We’re introduced now to the Godard boys – French cousins living in London and the kind of boys who have become myth due to their mysteriousness and beauty (they even have a tumblr fan page). While Vic and Jean-Luc add an interesting dynamic and no doubt aid Sunny tremendously in her hunt for Mark, I couldn’t help but feel weirdly unattached to them. Though quite a bit of emphasis is placed on both boys (Jean-Luc is always frowning while Vic is a charming ‘romantic’) I never really warmed up to either boy nor did I feel a twinge of genuine feeling other than friendship between them and our narrator.
“Sunny, this is Jean-Luc. He’ll pretend he doesn’t understand a word of English. He’ll also pretend to be a gigantic wanker. Not true in either case. He’s just a normal-sized wanker.”
No romantic vibes between Sunny and the Godards was a-okay with me, but I wish Sarra Manning would’ve stuck to her guns on this rather than suddenly announcing Jean-Luc and Sunny had feelings for one another in the closing chapter. Um, what? Never once did I get anything other than ‘oh okay, he’s quite good looking’ from Sunny, nor did Jean-Luc show any particular fondness romantically for Sunny before he was as tired as a zombie by the end of the night. Their sudden attraction for one another really sprung up from nowhere and threw me for a loop.
But, London Belongs to Us, paints quite a lovely picture of London and its urban-ness. Sunny, a native Londoner, is quite possessive and loyal to her home city and it shows in how she speaks about it. I also really adored the mini-histories behind each district they visit at the beginning of each chapter. For someone who has sadly never been to London (yet) but has been fascinated by it for such a long time, this was a really nice addition. We really get to experience the city from an insider’s perspective.
There are so, so many pop culture references. I really applauded the nod to RuPaul’s Drag Race (huge fan!) as well as the other little quips to do with Doctor Who, etcetera. Will these references stand the test of time? I’m not sure. I think if someone were to read this in 10-15 years that maybe some of the jokes would be lost on them. For now though, it’s great.
“Only the view remains; the buildings might get bombed, condemned or demolished, but new buildings spring up in their place, each taller and more fantastic than the last. London is always changing but it will always be a place where you can have adventures, make new friends, change your story, change your life.”
Despite this being so well-paced and exhilarating (seriously, you keep reading to see WHEN the elusive Mark is finally going to be cornered by Sunny and forced to explain his actions) I couldn’t help but feel like this book was just fingertips away from greatness. Something essential was missing – something that prevented me for really jumping on the bandwagon where this book was concerned. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of a clear and fascinating romantic interest, or that it took me some time to really warm up to Sunny, but London Belongs to Us never really defined itself as a favourite for me.
That being said, it was extremely FUN and Sarra Manning managed to create a book that had me feel like I’d been through the ringer as much as Sunny had by the end of it. Seriously, I wanted to pass out on the nearest horizontal surface from everything we’d experienced!
London Belongs to Us is a nice, quick little read that will have you smiling. If you don’t go into it with too much expectation, I promise you’ll enjoy it. The perfect book to pass a handful of hours!