Sydney is excited to spend the next 4.5 weeks with her childhood best friend, Leela, backpacking through Europe. However, all her planning for this trip didn’t account for the fact that Leela’s ex boyfriend, Matt, would be around with his hot friend, Jackson, in tow. Trying to keep an eye on Jackson while also keeping an eye on her mother’s mental health back home, Sydney has to figure out for herself how much she can manage looking after people and when she just needs to keep moving.
I was so excited for I See London, I See France because of my love for Paris and my trip to London earlier this year. I love the style of doodles on the cover and the premise was interesting but, unfortunately for me, I felt the execution of it lacking. Truly, it was reading alongside Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit that kept both of us going through this story. (You can check out her review here).
Where do I begin. The characters are annoying with their sense of entitlement and ignorance as they traveled around the countries, especially Leela, who could possibly be the worst, most self-absorbed BFF ever. Sydney wasn’t perfect, but she’s a saint for having to put up with Leela. For a trip that they’ve supposedly planned so much for, they seemed surprised and quite ignorant at a lot of things. The narration felt extremely juvenile, which is fine if the main characters were younger. But Sydney and Leela were supposed to be nineteen and spending their trip drinking, smoking pot and having sex all the while giggling at and not being able to comment on the statue of David. It was a weird juxtaposition that didn’t work for me. The only characters I found not overly irritating were the other backpackers they met and Kat, Sydney’s friend working in Paris for the summer (yet never seemed to be at work very much).
I’ve also seen many people comment that they liked the travel tips but personally, other than London, all the other cities’ “tips” were pretty vague and cliche. Sure, if you wanted to know what each country’s toilet features are, you’ll definitely at least get a good sense of that in this book. (I’m not even joking.) One city, there seemed to be more narrative about them going to a McDonald’s to eat than there was about the (apparently) one single landmark that the city is known for. I did enjoy the little nuances that were pointed out while the pair were in London, as I too had noticed the smelliness of the photo booths and the signs on the ground to look right. Other than that, though, it all felt very surface-level kind of traveling.
In general, I felt the story was a lot of telling. It needed a lot more editing as the majority of the narrative read like a line-list of things they did. Imagine someone telling you a long-winded story of their day: “We had brunch and ate this, and then we walked to the shop, and then we had lunch and ate sandwiches. And then we went back to buy something.” There wasn’t much of a natural flow to the storytelling. All this, and I haven’t even touched on the subject of Sydney’s mother’s mental health – which could have been something developed much more into an interesting story line rather than this asinine, lust-motivated hijinx. It’s a missed opportunity that this kind of premise ended up being so superficial when the potential could have been something more. It could still have been light-hearted but perhaps a coming-of-age story about growing up and learning things about yourself and your friends as they maneuvered through different countries and cultures. Even if the story didn’t end up having that deep of a message, it could still have been a bit better flushed out, I feel. I’m really disappointed as I had really wanted to like this book more.