Abby has always considered herself to be a little vanilla—sweet,plain, but not very exciting. So when she finds herself flying across the ocean to London, trying to forget her problems with her cheating ex-boyfriend and her overprotective parents, she figures her semester abroad is her chance to become one big hot fudge sundae. And she isn't disappointed. London boasts a plethora of funky pubs and shops, drivers on the wrong side of the street, French fries called chips, and a very charming Brit named Ian. As Abby moves closer to the vision of her wild child self, she realizes that sometimes leaving what you know best actually brings you closer to what you best know—yourself. This S.A.S.S. (Students Across the Seven Seas) novel is one of the first two in our new study abroad fiction series. Teen girls will latch onto these books as they're enmeshed in the lives of characters just like themselves, who are experiencing new cultures, new friendships, and new worlds through study abroad!
I picked this up because a) the cover is awesome (done by Yuko) and b) it’s about a girl who goes off to live in a boarding school in London. I love books that take place in boarding schools! Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book. It took way too long to read for such a short book, and that was because it was horribly, horribly boring.
Westminster Abby is the first book in the S.A.S.S. series: Students Across the Seven Seas (love that name, actually). This one takes place in London and stars Abby, a plain vanilla kind of gal who nevertheless wants to spice things up in her life. She’s just broken up with her cheating boyfriend, James, and wants to get away from both him and her overbearing, overprotective parents. What better place to find a new Abby and a new life than in a foreign country?
One thing this book does well is describe London. The streets, the pubs, the shops: all neatly laid out for readers, and without ever going into too much detail. That’s pretty much the only thing I did like, however.
I never connected with the characters, and in fact thought the potential new boyfriend, Ian, was a creepy user who just wanted to have a fling with an American chick. When it turned out he was sincere, I didn’t buy it. I also never really liked Abby, though I did appreciate that she eventually found her own self and voice, especially against her crazily-involved-with-her-life parents. And James-the-ex? Came off as gay. Whoops.
I also didn’t buy most of the vocabulary used by the characters. Okay, maybe I could see straight-A, overachieving student Abby using words like “perennial” in her conversations, but no way am I buying that punk rock rebel Zoe uses words like “extrapolate” outside of school papers. And while I’m at it, a lot of the dialogue seemed really…too perfect. Like the characters were reading from a script, instead of actually speaking to each other.
Also, I know it’s a teen book and everything, but I can’t believe that sex wasn’t mentioned even in passing. Not even the boys say anything! And Abby and her ex stay in a hostel room together, alone, in another city! And no-one was worried about possible hanky-panky? Abby wasn’t even worried about the possibility of James wanting to do her? I worried about it more than the characters did! To completely ignore this area of teen life was bothersome and, well, incorrect.
So while it’s a bit like a sitcom, where everything is perfectly imperfect and all problems are solved by the time the credits roll, it’s also rather sweet and innocent. (Like, say, Leave It To Beaver.) Abby’s ex used to make her playlists, for Pete’s sake. It’s not dangerous and it’s not really exciting, but it is a place where you what’s going to happen and what the moral is. I suppose everyone wants a bit of certainty in their lives, even vanilla teenagers. I’d just like something a little more than that.
Read: January 2009
Each SASS book is written by a different author, so it’s feasible that another book might be better. Should I check it out?