Friday, August 26, 2022

Weekend Reads: Love and Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean



Love & Other Great Expectations, Becky Dean's debut novel is one of my favorite books of 2022 and ranks high among all books I've read. It's so fun and engaging! I had to force myself to put the book down to eat, work, sleep, and generally adult.
It's rare that I identify with heroines and a non-bookish athlete is not one I expected to find such a connection. And yet I did. Probably because our heroine is a thinks-before-she-speaks extrovert. So many authors are introverts and consequently, so are YA heroines often spilling more about themselves with pens or keyboards except for the dystopian chosen ones. Then their few words flip Shakespeare and swords take on the might of their authors' pens. But Britt wields neither pen nor sword but a soccer ball. Or at least she used to...

Britt Hanson is neither bookish nor brawny. She's a wounded athlete with no hope of attending UCLA once her soccer scholarship is pulled after a career-ending injury. That is until her English teacher invites Britt, her former best friend, an ambitious classmate, and an annoying one on a literary scavenger hunt in England.

Equipped with only a battered gym bag with a less than sturdy construction, Britt becomes an international traveler. Albeit one with a rather embarrassing baggage claim arrival. Whisked off to a posh London townhouse, Britt with her rule-following "babysitter" she sets off on a series of literary quests.

At their first stop, an orphanage, Britt meets Luke a bookish and very cute British boy with a future as uncertain as Britt's. Through their scavenger hunt (Luke can't help - that's against the rules), the clues teach Britt about Dickens, Chaucer, Austen, and other things she didn't learn in English class. But this is a competition with one winner, and all competitors have reasons they need the prize.

While unraveling the clues they experience a sword fight, high tea, and a camping trip with a quirky family. But someone is determined to win at all costs, and Britt is put in danger. One stop forces Luke to encounter the place of his greatest pain.

All the while, Britt's key to victory, completing a journal of her adventures, eludes her and may keep her from her dreams. She's a YA heroine. She has to be born to write great things and win the day. Except Britt is "not like every girl" (er, YA heroine) in a great twist on this classic trope. Writing is not her thing. And even as a writer, I love her for it.

But lest you think Britt is nothing but a vapid chatterbox, the pool under her churning waters is deep. Britt hides a soccer-career ending medical condition, not the obvious ACL-surgery scar but one that runs literally to her marrow. It's in that depth she connects with Luke the kind boy who is good with the written word. And in her enthusiasm, she pulls Luke out of his own pain.

Labor Day is around the corner, and this is the perfect weekend read. And feel free to pass it to the teenage girls in your life. It's a clean read with PG content. There are late-night talks and a few kisses but no heat, and I don't recall any objectionable language or content.

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