Author: Jen Malone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.
Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.
Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.
But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.
Quick and Dirty:
A pair of sisters pull off the ultimate switch, leaving the younger one traipsing across Europe to find adventure, love, and most importantly herself.
“I’m wedged into the pantry, between forty-seven rolls of toilet paper and an industrial-sized box of Raisin Bran. Oh, and a chunk of my hair is hopelessly snagged in the joints of a metal shelving unit.”
Going into this book I was not too excited. The description seemed very formulaic of a standard YA contemporary road trip romance, but it did not take long for me to change my mind about this book. The beginning was your standard sister tension, but once the older sister was taken out of the scenes and the author introduces the reader to the elderly tourist on the European tour my opinion really changed. The six elderly tourists are truly entertaining and their characters were very engaging. I found myself looking forward to the scenes that focused more on these characters, until that the relationship between Aubree and Sam really started to take hold. I have included the first interaction between these characters in the below notable scene to really highlight the wit, comedy, and instant connection that these two characters had. So once the elderly characters and the romantic interest became the focus, that was when I really began to enjoy the book.
I would like to say that while I appreciate the author has to illustrate the narrator’s starting point in her journey of self discovery, I cannot stand how incredibly self conscious and timid the narrator was. It was hard for me to believe that this particular narrator would ever agree to impersonate her sister during a summer long European bus tour. Once the narrator left the United States she changed very quickly, to the point that I thought that she might have been misrepresented in the beginning and was a lot more assertive and independent than she was portrayed in the beginning.
The only other element of the book that I was not a big fan of was the inclusion of death in the story. While I appreciate that YA is a genre that is designed to tackle challenging topics, I do not believe that this book needed to tackle death in particular. This is especially true when the rest of the book’s tone is very light and I felt that the death that happened was used as a catalyst because the author could not come up with a way to force the narrator to make a decision. This of course is a preference of mine, but it was not a decision I was supportive of.
Saying all this I would like to note that the writing was done well and the plot moved along at a quick pace. Overall I enjoyed this book as a quick read and there were many moments that I actually had to laugh out loud. I would recommend it for a plane ride or a possible transit book.
I fall back on the bed. I dodged a bullet not having to talk to Elizabeth, but it does still leave me with the problem of: no binder = no tour information.
I squeeze my eyes shut and force a few deep breaths. It doesn’t help in the least. I’m just working up the energy to stand and do something, anything, to try to figure out where to go from here when the phone rings. Dammit, I told Mom not to have Elizabeth call me back. Then again, clearly Elizabeth wouldn’t trust that I actually made it in one piece. Of course she’d need to hear it with her own ears. I snatch the phone off the receiver and huff, “I told Mom you didn’t need to call me back!”
A deep, warm voice with a whole lot of amusement in it barely misses a beat before responding, “Oh, but you know Mom these days. She’s always so distracted. Between her quest for that Mrs. America crown and the beekeeping operation she started in the attic, who can blame her for forgetting to pass along a message here and there.”
Wait. What? The voice is American and most definitely male. He sounds young. Well, not little-kid young but more my-age young. Which makes . . . no sense.
“I . . . I’m sorry,” I stammer. “I think maybe you have the wrong room.”
“Oh, no, that was just me trying to be funny and clearly failing miserably. Let’s start over like boring people this time. Hello, is this Elizabeth?”
“No, it’s Au—” Oh crap! It is Elizabeth. Or at least, it is Elizabeth according to anyone who would possibly have this number. “I mean, yes. Yes, this is Elizabeth Sadler. Sorry. Um, jet lag.”
I try to laugh it off, and thankfully there’s no hesitation on the other end when the boy responds with an easy laugh and, “Yeah, jet lag is the worst. Hey, so this is Sam. Of At Your Age Adventures Tours?”
I swallow and manage, “Hi. Hey. I mean, hello. At Your Age Adventures. Right. Hi. So, yeah. Everything here is really perfect. Just perfect. More than perfect, actually. Top-notch.”
Shut UP, Aubree!
Another chuckle from the boy at the other end of the phone. “Okay, then. Glad to hear all is ‘top-notch.’” His voice is definitely teasing, but not in a mean way. At least, I don’t think so. I exhale and try to force myself to calm down as Sam continues. “It’s just that you missed your check-in call and Bento is waiting for you downstairs now, so we wanted to make sure you’d arrived in one piece and didn’t, I don’t know, maybe get distracted in one of those Amsterdam coffeeshops.”
Check-in call? Bento? I don’t know anything about any of this. Maybe I should suck it up and call Elizabeth for the backup binder information after all. Maybe winging it is a monumentally stupid Plan B. Besides, having Elizabeth lose respect for me would be way better than having Elizabeth hate me because I mess things up so badly that the whole debacle blows up in both our faces and she loses her job with the congressman.
“Oh, no. Nope,” I tell Sam. “I had my coffee at the airport.” I need to get him off the phone so I can call Elizabeth pronto, but he probably already thinks I’m a total spaz from this conversation. Might as well make an attempt to sound normal first, so I don’t leave him with a bad impression.
Sam’s chuckle is a full-blown laugh this time. “Um, Elizabeth?”
“Yeah?” It’s so, so weird to answer to that. I wonder if I’ll be used to it by the end of the trip.
“You are aware that ‘coffeeshop’ is a euphemism for a place you can legally smoke marijuana in Amsterdam, right?”
Oh. Ooooh. “I . . . of course. Yes, sure. I totally knew that.”
Sam’s voice is warm as he answers, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. After all, you are the tour guide.”
“Right,” I answer, trying to sound confident. “That I am.”
“Well, Tour Guide Elizabeth. I should probably let you go meet your bus driver in the lobby. I’ll text him and let him know you’re headed down now. Sound good?”
Bento is the bus driver! Okay, this feels like progress. And actually, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but the bus driver, Bento, will definitely have all the information I need to start the tour. Granted, it might not be as detailed as Elizabeth’s binder (I don’t think the entirety of Wikipedia is as detailed as Elizabeth’s binder) but he’ll obviously know where we’re headed and when. I’m pretty positive I can get it out of him without letting him catch on that I don’t have a freaking clue about either.
I suddenly realize Sam is still on the phone, waiting for me to respond.
“Sure, sounds good.”
The hint of laughter is still in his voice as he says, “Nice ‘meeting’ you, Elizabeth. We’ll talk soon.”
“Sure, okay. You too. Okay, then, loveyoubye.” I put the phone back in the cradle and then I pause as my words replay in my head.
I did not just tell a total stranger—my employer, no less—that I loved him. Did not. I roll over and scream into the sheets of my bed.
Maybe he didn’t hear me. He probably didn’t. I was halfway to hanging up as I said it so the phone was already moving away from my mouth. And even if he did, I bet he thinks he just misunderstood me. After all, I’m guessing he’s seen Elizabeth’s file and he’d never believe someone as pulled together as her transcript indicates could ever be such a mess.
And she’s not.
Aubree, on the other hand? Oh yeah. Aubree is exactly that much of a mess.
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