Cover of Love & Other Great Expecations. A cute white couple looks at a map, surrounded by a dozen British icons, such as London Bridge and Big Ben

About the Book

Title: Love & Other Great Expectations
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Where’s Waldo Winston?
Drinking Buddy: (insert English beer joke here)
BBFC Rating: (12: crude humor, alcohol, language)
Talky Talk: Rule Britannia
Bonus Factors: Scavenger Hunt, British Lit
Bromance Status: We’ll Always Have Oxford

Cover Story: Where’s Waldo Winston?

The picture of Britt and Luke was adorable, but the drawings of every every UK landmark and stereotype was a bit much. None of those things played a significant role in the story, and I felt like the cover designer was told to cram as many British things in the picture so as not to confuse American readers.

The Deal:

Britt Hanson was a menace on the soccer field. Not only has she landed a full scholarship to her dream college, but she was already being scouted by professional teams. She was one of those rare kids who say they’re going to make it as an athlete and actually succeed.

Until one day she screws up her ACL. Not a career-ending injury, but while getting treated, her doctors make a grim discovery. Britt has a rare blood condition. If she’s injured, she could literally bleed to death. So soccer is out forever. And with her mother unable to afford the tuition and her grades not impressive enough for an academic scholarship (unlike her siblings), Britt is now headed for community college and a life of coaching kids at the YMCA.

But then Britt’s English teacher invites her and three classmates on a trip to the UK. There, they will compete in a literary scavenger hut. The winner will get $100,000. Seriously. No strings attached. Britt, of course, jumps at the chance.

Unfortunately, Britt was never the literary type, and the clues, plus the prospect of keeping a journal, is kind of overwhelming. But then she meets Luke, a charmingly nerdy local boy who agrees to be her guide all over England. Things are looking up! But can she win against her smarter classmates? And does Britt want to get involved with a boy she’ll most likely never see again?

Drinking Buddy: (insert English beer joke here)

Two pints of beer cheersing

You ever have a friend that stuff just kind of happens to? Who has a lot of luck, both good and bad? Well, that’s Britt. And she just rolls with it. The scavenger hunt opportunity just falls in her lap. She doesn’t really worry about how a public school teacher could afford to finance this endeavor. Why does this cute English boy have time to be her personal guide? He’ll tell her when he’s ready. Who shoved her into the Roman baths, risking exacerbating her leg injury? Whoever they were, they’re certainly off Britt’s Christmas card list.

I don’t mean to say that Britt was boring or a doormat. She was just one of those characters that knows there’s only so much in life that you can control, and wishing otherwise won’t change a thing. She’s crushed by the loss of her soccer career, but she never falls into a pit of self-pity and anger.

BBFC Rating: (12: crude humor, alcohol, language)

So what could be better than a personal tour of most of England (and Scotland!) by a charming, bookish local boy, who’s obviously suffering from some sort of hurt, and is clearly interested in you? Of course, Britt can’t afford to study in California, let alone England, and it’s not like Luke’s going to pull up stakes and follow her to the US. Best to not get involved. But damn, there are only so many romantic locations they can visit before Britt’s going to let her guard down.

Incidentally, the author doubled down on my least-favorite YA boy trope: Luke not only had cute cheek dimples, but one in his chin as well. At this rate, YA guys are going to start looking like golf balls by the end of the decade.

Talky Talk: Rule Britannia

A normal class trip would have been regimented and scheduled. But on this one, anything goes. And this means Luke can take Britt to all the places you won’t find in the history books. And that’s what makes this book special: two kids on a trip of a lifetime. Even the grand prize shrinks in comparison to the memories they’ll make.

And yes, the author did make us learn about the UK and her great authors. But I can forgive her for that.

Bonus Factor: Scavenger Hunt

Screenshot from National Treasure, with three characters holding torches in an ancient building

So Britt’s English teacher, Mrs. Carmichael, has chosen four of her students for this amazing opportunity. This is not a school-sponsored trip; she’s funding this whole thing out of pocket: flights, spending money, transportation, personal chaperones, and of course, the grand prize. Why is she doing this? Why did she pick those particular students? (Britt never did well in her class) Is this pure altruism or does Mrs. Carmichael have something sinister in mind?

No, it’s all on the up and up. But someone seems to have it out for Britt, sabotaging her efforts to win. Could it be Amberlyn, Britt’s ex-best friend who no longer talks to her? Peter, the kid who seems to hate Britt, but won’t say why? And why is Luke so weird when anyone asks him about his father? Britt’s chaperone, Alexis, is Luke’s cousin, but she refuses to reveal anything.

Bonus Factor: British Lit

Portrait of author Charles Dickens

The hunt takes Britt and Luke to the haunts of England’s great writers: Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Tolkien, Lewis, Conan Doyle, etc. And Britt, who kind of looked at the assigned reading as a task to be suffered through, realizes there’s something to be said for these oldies but goodies.

Bromance Status: We’ll Always Have Oxford

As a young man, I always dreamed of visiting the UK. Maybe it’s time to make this dream a reality. Thanks, Becky Dean, for this fun romp through England.

Literary Matchmaking

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

Sarvenaz Tash’s The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love explores the trope of the handsome English boy.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando is another scavenger hunt book.

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games #1)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Inheritance Games series is another ‘mysterious benefactor’ story.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money (dollars or pounds).

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.