About the Book

Title: What Scotland Taught Me
Published: 2010
Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Cover Story: Lonely Planet
BFF Charm: Mixed Bag
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Scotland, Ghosts, Gap Year
Relationship Status: On Again, Off Again Romance

Cover Story: Lonely Planet

Hey, in a few weeks, I’m going to Edinburgh with my parents. It is SO THOUGHTFUL of you to send me this travel guide. Although it’s kinda weird that you left a lipstick mark before sending it to… wait, you mean this isn’t a travel guide? Huh! Oh well, at least it’s not embarrassing.

The Deal

After graduating high school, four best friends–Eva, Shannon, Laurence, and Amber–hop on a plane and travel 5000 miles to Edinburgh, where they will be spending the next six months working and enjoying life in Scotland. For Shannon, being away from home and her overbearing family means that for the first time, she can finally start making decision for herself, and not for others. For Amber, she wants to explore her past and meet her father, and maybe move things beyond friendship with her old pal Laurence. Laurence just wants to hold everyone together, both here and back home. Eva isn’t sure what to do about her bland-but-doting boyfriend back in Oregon, especially after she meets sexy local barkeep, Gil. But most of all, Eva is glad to spend a last few months with her friends before going off to college. She knows that in a year, they will have gone their separate ways and nothing will ever be the same. But what she doesn’t realize is how much Scotland will change all of them in the meantime, especially her.

BFF Charm: Mixed Bag

Brown paper bag filled with various BFF charms

The characters in this book comprise a SERIOUSLY mixed bag. Where to even begin?

I guess I’ll start with Shannon, because she’s the least-developed but also the best person in this book. She’s got some issues saying no to people, but she’s working on them. I don’t entirely approve of her 18-year-old decision to reorganize her life for some boy she just met, but her family back in Oregon is clearly shitballz crazy. If that’s what it takes to put an ocean between her and their serious co-dependency issues, I’ll take it.

As for Amber, I could take or leave her. She’s innocuous enough, even pleasantly kooky in a Phoebe Buffay kind of way. But only in small doses. Her ghost-hunting antics would majorly annoy me after a while, and–I know this sounds terrible–I’m pretty sure she has some serious mental health issues? And I’m not ready or equipped to jump into all her drama and be The Person to help her sort that shit out. I mean, SOMEONE should, but it’s not going to be me. So I’ll be a casual, supportive friend, but I’m saving my BFF charm for someone else. Someone more stable. Someone like Laurence.

Laurence, GET IN MY PANTS. Uh, I mean… here’s a BFF charm? But seriously, you’re too hot cool for this motley crew. You’re nerdy-chic, an awesome friend, and really smart. You have some major personality flaws, don’t get me wrong, but no more than the rest of us. Let’s get married be besties! And as my first act of friendship, I have this… “friend”… I’d like to introduce you to. She lives not far from Edinburgh, likes botany (I know you’re into that), and has really great hair…

Gil, I hereby submit my CV to be your Get-A-Grip Friend. My qualifications include a) being a lady who does not want to sleep with you and b) not liking the lady who does want to sleep with you. You clearly need at least one person in your life to tell you that YOU DESERVE BETTER. Despite your hideous fashion choices, you are too good to be The Other Man. Grow a pair, get some self-respect, and put your foot down. You don’t need to be anyone’s doormat.

Which brings us to Eva, our heroine. A THOUSAND NAYS, EVA. No thank you. I tried REALLY hard to reserve judgement on you and your cheating ways. I recognize that sometimes, people fall for the right person at the wrong time, breakups are hard, etc. But seriously, YOU ARE THE VERY WORST. You spend the entire book stringing along a variety of perfectly nice guys, justifying it to yourself by saying, “It’s not really cheating if he doesn’t put his penis directly IN my vagina. Hand jobs don’t count, right?” The problem with people like you is that once you start being a lying liar who lies in one aspect of your life, it never stops there. You will turn out to be terrible fucking friend for a lot of reasons that correlate with being the kind of person who habitually cheats on a decent guy back home under the guise of “not hurting him with the truth” or whatever, when really you just wanted a contingency plan in case things don’t work out. That kind of deceitful behavior doesn’t just apply to your romantic entanglements; it’s symptomatic of much bigger problems of selfishness and narcissism that poison ALL of your relationships. BURN IN HELL, EVA.

Ahem. I would also like to extend a platinum, diamond encrusted BFF charm to Eva’s pre-teen little sister, Gina, who only appears on about two pages but is an absolute gem. During a brief phone call, she offers Eva some adorable boy advice:

“Don’t mope around… Go do something awesome, Then when he comes back he’ll see how like, independent you are. So he’ll want you.”

I blinked in silence. Her suggestion was oddly wise. “Gina, have you been reading Seventeen again?”

”Mom got me a subscription,” she said proudly.

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Loathed as I am to admit it, but between episodes of wanting to stab Eva IN THE FACE, this book was pretty hot. I fanned myself at one point. I don’t mean that metaphorically; I literally waved my hand in front of my face while reading until I regained some level of awareness and put my arm down in shame.

Eva and her going-to-be-a-celibate-priest-one-day boyfriend Tony score a solid 0 on the swoon scale, but other things heat up to levels so steamy, it’s practically a sauna in here. I can’t give it a full ten marks because I so wholeheartedly disapprove of Eva and everything she does. Plus, there are some kind of gross parts–public groping, for instance–that I can’t get down with because I’m no longer a hormone-crazed teenager. Despite all that, Ringle sure knows how to pace a romance.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Setting aside the fact that I hate the main character for a minute, Ringle writes what is a perfect example of how to nail a teenage voice. In a lot of ways, reading this book reminded me of reading the Jessica Darling series; Ringle has a terrible, painful knack for dredging up horrible teenage emotions that I’ve spent most of the past decade suppressing. As much as I can’t stand Eva, it is hard not to identify with her and sympathize with the bad decisions she makes, no matter how much I disagree with them. Mad props to Ringle for making me appreciate her book while simultaneously despising her heroine.

The other thing I have to credit her for is not going all Och Aye with the language. There certainly is some local dialect thrown in, but all of it is stuff I’ve heard an actual Scottish person say before, so it just enhances the backdrop of the story.

Bonus Factor: Scotland

A beautiful old castle nestled into rolling hills in Scotland

HOLLA! This is where I live, bitches! Well, I don’t live in Edinburgh, but I do live in Scotland! And it’s AWESOME! (Except not right now. It’s effing terrible right now. How do people survive on this little daylight?) I haven’t spent much time in Edinburgh recently, apart from trips to the airport and wandering around Princes Street at 1am one night. But I did go there once when I was 20, and I’m 99% sure I stayed in the same hostel where Eva & Co live. Plus, the book involves a wee bit of traveling around other parts of Scotland, to the Highlands (I’ve been there, briefly!) and to Inverness (I haven’t been there! But one of my friends is from Nairn and I’m totes going to visit!). VIVA SCOTLAND!

Bonus Factor: Ghosts

Little ghost sugar cookies

So fun story! When I went to Edinburgh the first time, my hostel roommates, college roommate, and I went on a ghost tour that culminated in Greyfriars Bobby, where, inside an old mausoleum, the poltergeist Bloody Mackenzie supposedly lives. If you’re on a good tour, he will come out and attack someone in your tour group, either with some mysterious injuries like cuts or bruises, some mischief like deleting your cell phone contacts, or if you’re REALLY lucky, someone in your group will pass out. GUESS WHO PASSED OUT? I was so pleased with myself. I don’t actually don’t believe in ghosts and have no explanation for the events of that night, but I do know that it was REALLY exciting and we all skipped off to the pub afterwards delighted in my good fortune and really annoyed with some skeptical Aussies we met there.

Anyway, Amber “sees ghosts,” so the group spends lots of time going out ghost-hunting with her in Edinburgh. This is one part irritating and two parts cool.

Bonus Factor: Gap Year

Gap Year: It’s not just for posh Brits anymore! I wish more Americans did gap years. In fact, I’m so glad I read this book, because it reminds me of this time, when I was living in Indyah, and then, the powah went out, and you could litrally see all the stahs, and it was so amazing, like, I just felt so spiritually connected with the universe, and then I just CHUNDERED EVERYWHAH! Haha, yah, I’d been on the lash the night before. Best night of my life…

Relationship Status: On Again, Off Again Romance

Book, we’ve had our ups and downs. We fight CONSTANTLY; one minute I want to punch you in the face, and the next, I just want to make out already. This relationship is EXHAUSTING and I just want to settle things one way or the other, but I can’t decide if our bickering is of the Benedick and Beatrice variety, or that of Sid and Nancy. It’s been fun, but I just don’t know if this is healthy for either of us in the long run. I should probably end things here and now.

Ah, who am I kidding. I’ll text you next week.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Central Avenue Publishing. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). What Scotland Taught Me is available now.


Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.