________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 34. . . .May 12, 2017


I See London, I See France.

Sarah Mlynowski.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, July, 2017.
380 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-44344-317-3.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Yet we made it. We lost the napkins, kept the lipsticks, and we made it. Now, we’re here at the gate. Electricity and excitement rush up my spine – I’m seriously, no joke, actually doing this. I am traveling around Europe with my best friend for four and a half weeks. Holy crap.


Sydney, 19, has spent years taking care of her agoraphobic divorced mother. She stays home for college because of her mother’s emotional issues and her younger sister’s needs. Her best friend, Leela, has spent the last year at a college in Montreal where she fell in love with dreamy Matt. Leela’s plans to spend the summer with Matt in Europe fall apart when she catches him cheating on her. Sydney reluctantly decides to spend four and a half weeks travelling Europe with Leela after she convinces her younger sister to take responsibility for her mother while she is gone.

     The trip gets off to a very rocky start when Leela meets Matt on the plane with his friend Jackson. The two lovers reconnect, and for a time, it looks like Leela will run off with Matt and leave Sydney to her own devices. Sydney and Jackson become friends, and their relationship starts to develop despite Sydney’s concerns about Jackson’s “fast” reputation. However, Leela and Matt soon break up again after a sex show incident in Amsterdam. Leela is miserable, and Sydney decides they should travel to Paris to stay with her school friend Kat who has an apartment there. Will Leela reconnect with Matt? Will Sydney’s flirtation with Jackson grow into a romantic relationship?

     I See London, I See France is a young adult novel for older teenagers. It is primarily a travelogue about wonderful European locations, including London, Amsterdam, Paris, Monaco and Florence. It describes local culture, delicious meals, impressive museums/ monuments, and exciting adventures in foreign places. Both girls fall in and out of love a few times in this romantic whirlwind. There are several examples of casual sex, binge drinking, pot smoking, and even watching a sex show in Amsterdam. In some respects, this novel could be considered Sex and the City for teenagers!

     The strength of I See London, I See France is its characterization. Sydney is a courageous young woman who, for years, has been carrying the burden of an emotionally-traumatized mother. She is an unselfish caregiver with lots of responsibility. When an opportunity to travel through Europe with her best friend arises, Sydney decides to take some time for herself. On the other hand, Leela, her childhood friend, is a much less admirable character. She is the only person in Sydney’s life who knows about her mother’s condition. Although Leela is supportive, her main concern in life is pleasing Leela. She is a drama queen who loves to be the centre of attention in any situation. She needs to have all her needs taken care of first. All in all, she is a selfish person who is a poor friend to Sydney throughout most of the novel. Minor characters in this novel are much less realistically portrayed and are generally one-dimensional.

     This novel explores many interesting topics, including teen friendship, agoraphobia, travelling tips, drugs, alcohol, sex and romance. Although many discussions in this novel are amusing, there are also some rather risqué conversations, including the one about the size of private parts on the statue of David in Florence. Older teenage readers who are looking for an amusing read about travelling through Europe to find love and adventure will definitely not be disappointed with Sarah Mlynowski’s I See London, I See France.


Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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