For our July book club, we choose to read Love & Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean. We’ve had this book on our TBR for months and we’re excited to finally be able to go on an adventure across Britain through the eyes of an American teenager.
If you didn’t already know, London is an amazing city. Check out our YA City Guide for more recommendations for YA books set in London.
Britt Hanson’s life changed when her doctor said she could never play competitive soccer again. Overnight, her entire life plan unraveled and she has no idea how she can afford college. Enter Ms. Carmichael, Britt’s English teacher. Ms. Carmichael gathered Britt and three other students for an opportunity of a lifetime: fly to London over the summer to participate in a literary scavenger hunt. The winner will receive 100K.
Fast forward a few weeks and Britt arrives in London with the other students. Quickly, Britt finds clues that lead her to historic Oxford to the lively Edinburgh as she goes on path of self-discovery while learning about the most memorable authors in British history. She might even realize there is more to life than soccer.
1. How did you feel about the scavenger hunt structure of the book?
Everyone enjoyed how the book was structured based on the scavenger hunt. It took us to many different locations across England and Scotland. Britt got used to the British train system, which led to many adventures. Everyone agreed that we liked learning about more locations than just London, which is usually the focal point of books. The only aspect that would have made it more enjoyable was if Dean included a map at the very end that highlighted every stop on the journey.
The scavenger hunt structure gave us the opportunity to learn a lot about history, culture and literature. Everything from Oliver Twist to Harry Potter was discussed. The story became about the journey, not the destination. Instead of the winner being who finished first, Ms. Carmichael gave everyone a journal so they could track their thoughts. The winner would be chosen based on the journal and an interview. The unique locations and experience were to inspire the four students to dig deeper, since travel teaches you about yourself.
2. Did you figure out the clues before they were revealed?
We had mixed responses about the clues. Some of the group club members actually figured out the majority of the clue, while those who aren’t as immersed with British literature didn’t fare as well. We admit, the only clues we got had to do with Jane Austen and Macbeth, which took us on a journey to Bath and Scotland.
We did find the clues to be entertaining and Dean did a great job sharing Britt’s though process for figuring out where to travel next. While she wasn’t the biggest reader, she loved to get immersed in stories, so she found her own way to go about the challenges.
3. How did the characters change throughout the story?
Let’s start with Britt, our main character. Britt started out never leaving the country before, so everything she did was a new experience that challenged her comfort zone. The entire book became a road of self-discovery for her, deciding what she wanted to study in college and how she should live her life. A big part of this journey was Luke Jackson, a guy she meets in London who joins her on her quest. Luke was dealing with his own emotional baggage. He helped Britt open up and start living, while Britt helped Luke discover his next chapter.
Another fun character was Al, Britt’s guide throughout the quest. Ms. Carmichael assigned each participant a guide to make sure everyone was safe and stayed on track. Al also budgeted the trip. We found Al to be hilarious. She has a dry sense of humor and is what you expect of a proper English lady. But she’s also super smart and became to perfect introvert match to Britt’s extroverted nature. They balanced each other. While Al didn’t change too much, she did open up more by the end and helped Britt have to courage to say what she wants.
4. If you could change the ending, would you?
We had mixed responses to the ending of Love & Other Great Expectations. The aspect everyone enjoyed most was the reveal of Ms. Carmichael’s big secret and how she afforded to put on this spectacle. Britt became the only contestant to figure it out!
As for the scavenger hunt aspect, it was what we expected to happen for the most part. Same goes for the romance. Without spoiling anything, the problem people had with the ending was that not enough changed. Despite the outcome, we were hoping that Britt would choose to stay in England instead of going back to Los Angeles. While everything works out in the end for almost everyone, we wanted something a bit more. That being said, overall everyone had fun reading our latest book club pick.