My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.
Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.
London Belongs To Us is the fourth Sarra Manning novel I’ve read – my first and favourite being Unsticky – and the first YA novel of hers I have read (although she has written loads).
LBTU is the story of Sunny, a mixed-race working-class seventeen-year-old Londoner, who has decided she’s going to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Mark – tonight. It’s the August Bank Holiday weekend (the last weekend in August for all of you non-UKers), and her mum is out of town, and Sunny has the house to herself (although she’s not allowed any of those wild teenage parties that get out of hand!).
Sunny is hanging out with her best friend Emmeline when she gets a text – a photo of her boyfriend, Mark, kissing another girl. What ensues is a 12 hour chase around London landmarks, meeting interesting characters and doing crazy things Sunny would never have dreamed of doing – all so she can dump Mark and get her dignity back.
What I really did like about this novel is the fact that for every London area visited, there’s a little history to really set the mood. What this novel was missing however, was a map. If in doubt, add a map in the front! This is really common in fantasy novels, but I’d also like to see maps in contemporary novels like this one where the story takes place all over a city.
The absolute highlight for me was the characterisation and diversity in this novel. I loved how Sunny was mixed-race and in an interracial relationship and she did encounter racism, but it wasn’t the main arc of the story. So many stories about non-white characters focus on stereotypes – often featuring gangs, drugs and murder. It’s refreshing to see a non-white character who isn’t defined by their skin colour.
On the topic of diversity, there’s a whole host of diverse characters here – the LGBTQ spectrum is well covered, we see characters from a range of different class backgrounds, and, as mentioned earlier, we see characters of different races. The diversity in this novel doesn’t feel forced – it feels natural, as does the characterisation of London.
This novel introduces lots of characters for such a short book, but it’s done well – they are each unique and memorable, as well as being well-developed.
Overall, this is a fun, short novel which is itself an ode to the culture of London. If you’re looking for a quick summer read that gets diversity right, check this one out.
This book reminded me of another recent YA release, You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, so if you enjoyed that, this would be another great read.
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