I was on NetGalley the other day, browsing through books, and saw this particular one – a love letter to being young, staying up all night, and living in London. I’m a big fan of all three of those things, so I requested it immediately, and it was definitely a good choice. This twelve-hour epic journey around and across London features protagonist Sunny discovering herself, new friends, and parts of London that aren’t even (*gasp*) on the Overground.
A really fun, rollicking non-romance, I was caught up in its voyage of self-discovery, and giggled to myself throughout most of this really sweet and enjoyable book.
London Belongs To Us – Sarra Manning
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.
From the very beginning of this book, I was sold on it. It starts in Crystal Palace, as the main character and her best friend complain about how long it takes to get to Crystal Palace park. Having friends in Crystal Palace, I have had this very experience, and so I was inclined to approve of the book from the very first pages.
From there, it only improved, as Sunny, the main character, experiences an all-night journey around the city in search of an errant boyfriend and an explanation for the pictures she was sent of him kissing another girl.
harming and funny, at times laugh-out-loud so, I read my way through this book with glee. The main story was interspersed with fun asides including a playlist
, pie charts, and the sage advice of a mother, all of which added to the experience, and contributed several giggles. My dad gave me some very strange looks as I laughed quietly on the couch at this particular pie chart (most notably the 2%, as it’s also a problem I frequently struggle with).
Furthermore, each new destination was prefaced by a (somewhat snarky) little bit of history, meaning the book was educational as well as entertaining!
Sunny, the main character, was a bit of a pushover in the start, who found her voice as she struggles to catch up to her wayward boyfriend. Through the experience of chasing him across London, she manages to experience the horror of a rail replacement bus, the Night Tube [more than anyone else has managed yet!], travelling on the back of a Vespa, chic, expensive clubs, eye-watering prices for beers, a supermarket rave, hot wings with drag queens, going viral on YouTube, and a large proportion of broom management, along with meeting new friends, helping her best friend in seduction, tackling the difficulties of two mysterious bickering French boys, bicycle theft and many more things – too many to list. As well as this, there are several nice nods to the difficulties that can come with living in London – Sunny is mixed-race, and this is given some consideration in the book, delicately but excellently, and I really felt like I understood more about her and the things she faces in her life in a really accessible and interesting way.
Most of the literature I’ve seen about this book mentions it being a romance, but it’s not – not really. This book is more about Sunny finding herself and finding her voice, standing up for herself and loving the city she lives in over the course of one glorious (hot, sweaty, sticky, confusing, jam-packed, broom-filled) night. If anything, it’s about Sunny’s romance with London, and her love for her friends (and the random strangers) who help her in her quest to find her rat of a boyfriend.
London Belongs To Us was fun and entertaining, a rom-com with a real heart behind it, and a main character who I was staunchly behind the whole time. It does exactly what it says on the tin, as Sunny embarks on her quest, the reader is dragged along a fun and funny journey through London and through the night.
PS – I tried to make a map, on Google Maps, of how Sunny’s night went. I managed the first ten destinations, and then Google Maps got mad at me. So I had to make two.
This is also a driving map because, for some bizarre reason, Google won’t let you map out a route which includes a Vespa, a night tube, several buses, three stolen bicycles, a rickshaw, a black cab, etc etc. Shocking.
Map #1 starts at 8pm in Crystal Palace and finishes in Ladbroke Grove at approx 5.30am
Map #2, which should really be via public transport instead of via car, but whatever, starts at Ladbroke Grove, where the last finished up, and hits up South Bank at 6.30am, finishing in Ally Pally at 8am.
I’ve never been to Alexandra Palace, but I am now struck by an intense desire to go there. I will attempt to convince my friends that we need to go and play board games there some sunny weekend soon.
London Belongs To Us is published June 2nd from Hot Key Books. I thoroughly recommend you pick it up.