Overall: 2.5/5 Stars
Plot and Themes: 3/5
Awesomeness Factor: 2/5
Review in a Nutshell: My Oxford Year was an interesting book, full of smart characters and a very vivid setting, but ultimately fell flat for me. However, I can see why people may enjoy it.
“But in our story, there’s no villain, no witch, no fairy godmother, no moral imperative or cautionary conclusion. No happily-ever-after.
It just is. It’s life.”
My Oxford Year follows Ella Durran as she travels to Oxford from Ohio. There, she meets Jamie, a rich and handsome poetry fan, who just so happens to be taking over for her literature professor. Ella knows that anything between her and Jamie won’t last due to an amazing job waiting for her at home, but naturally, things get a little complicated.
One of the strongest aspects of this book was Julia Whelan’s descriptions of Oxford, the book’s main setting. I felt like I was there, staring at the old buildings and beautiful scenery. Julia Whelan is also, very smart. You can tell from her writing and the dialogue between the characters. Her intelligence is seen in every line and witty remark. However, I feel like it was a bit forced, making you feel distant from the characters as they have these random philosophical conversations or all start quoting different literary texts. For me, it pulled me out. That said, someone else may love that. I didn’t.
Speaking of the characters, I had a lot of trouble connecting to them. As I mentioned, they were almost overbearingly intelligent and pretentious, in an annoying way. Then, of course, when they made mistakes it was ten times more frustrating due to how much their intelligence was emphasized. Ella was probably the hardest for me to like. Her mistakes were glaring and painfully avoidable, and when she does redeem herself for them, it didn’t feel deserved. I found myself wanting to yell at her quite a bit, Also, a lot of her friends were insanely melodramatic, making them feel unreal. The only character who’s dramatic tendencies seemed to work was Charles (who was actually my favorite part of this whole book). As for Jamie, I just didn’t feel anything for him either way. The way their relationship was written made me not care about if they stay together or never see each other again, which isn’t great in a book marketed as a romance for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.
Finally, the plot. Since this book really is a supposed to be a romance, the majority of the plot follows their relationship drama, and since I didn’t really care about the relationship, I was pretty bored. There is also Jamie’s secret (don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything), which adds a bit of tension and quickens the pace to a degree, as well as Ella’s new political job, which definitely was interesting, but wasn’t a large enough part of the book to keep the pages turning.
I briefly want to stop into some spoiler territory, so I’ll put it under a spoiler tag in case you’re curious. [I’m kinda disappointed Jamie didn’t die? I feel like if he did, even if it wasn’t until the epilogue and like months later, or if it was left hanging, the book would have left a better impact? This book was too dark to be cute and fluffy and to have the cute and fluffy ending. I wish it just committed entirely to the tragic and real aspect it seemed to be going for during the entire book. I don’t know. I feel like him miraculously living and doing so much better at the end- getting well enough to jump off a waterfall?!- made it even more unbelievable, and felt kinda cheap. I don’t know. That’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think about that because I could just be insane]
Pros- Great setting, clever writing
Cons- Unrealistic and frustrating characters, uninteresting relationship, weak plot
Overall- 2.5/5 stars.
My Oxford Year had an interesting premise, but unfortunately, the characters, plot, and main relationship made it hard for me to enjoy.