London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning Review

‘Bitch is just a word that boys say when they don’t have the power to hurt you anymore’

London Belongs To Us is a contemporary, centring around Sunny, a 17 year old planning to meet up with her long term boyfriend to lose her virginity. However instead she is sent a picture of said boyfriend on the other side of London kissing another girl and a wild goose chase with two French boys, a girl band and a broom ensues. What I was expecting from this book was a light hearted, typical teen romance and it was all of those things but with so much more. The book discusses feminist issues, issues around race, gender, sexual orientation, divorce, unconventional families, to mention a few.  Not only does it discuss them, it bluntly confronts them; there is no sugar coating in this book. Our main character, Sunny, is mixed race, and this becomes a main focus of the book, one of the scariest scenes being when Sunny is harassed and sworn at in the street for being seen with Jean-Luc and Vic, two white French boys.

One of my favourite things about this book was the way it tackled slut shaming and girls putting other girls down. Sunny is not perfect, for half of the book she refers to the girl her boyfriend kissed as a slut. While this really irritated me when she said it, she was called out on it which I appreciated. There was a really touching point in which she finally meets the girl and rather than starting a fight, they end up complementing each other, a girl supporting other girls is a message that cannot be spread enough. Another interesting feature in this book was that at the start of each chapter there was a couple of paragraphs describing the history of each place she visited; I think this would be a great book to read in London or just before visiting because the descriptions made me want to go so badly. Before the chapter started there was usually either a pie chart detailing what was going on in her head at that point or a background story like ‘A history of my hair’ which was really helpful as the book only spanned over a night so it was a really good way for the reader to understand the backstory and motivations of the characters.

Okay, now I’m done raving about this book, I’m going to go into the few criticisms I have.. While most of the book was written well: it was easy to read, the characters voices felt real etc. near the middle of the book it kind of lost its way for a little while. A few of the characters voices became weirdly irritating, and seemed like the dialogue of entirely different characters rather than the ones that had been there from the start. I think around this point the author was trying really hard to make her characters sound like typical teens but because she hadn’t set out to do this from the start, it just felt weirdly out of place. Luckily, this only lasted for a few chapters and there voices returned to normal after that. Another problem I had was that while I loved what we did see of Jean-Luc’s character, he wasn’t really developed enough, we got a few hints into his life but mostly his plot didn’t really have the space to grow with all the crazy plots and events the author was focusing on instead. It was definitely a busy, sometimes vaguely confusing plot. A lot was happening over these 12 hours but with the character development of Sunny being so drastic, they needed a lot of craziness to make her personality change make sense.

Overall, I adored this book and would probably give it 4/5 stars. I have been searching so long for a book that spanned over a night or a day that was actually well executed and this is it. The characters were weird and wonderful, especially her badass best friend who was brutally honest in the best possible way because she reminded me so much of my own best friend.  I loved the crazy events, the important life lessons and the conclusions this book came to. Next time you need a pick me up with a message, give this one a go.

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