Review: The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson

Hi everyone and welcome to the first of three posts for the next three days! Counting down to Christmas, Pete and I will be posting our reviews for the three short stories that make up Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson.

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Today’s review is for The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, which follows Jubilee and her dramatic Christmas vacation across America. With her parents suddenly in jail (on Christmas Eve), Jubilee is forced to jump on a train to her grandparents house. But when the train hits a snowdrift in Gracetown and isn’t set to move for over 24 hours, she gets off in hope of warming up at the Waffle House across the interstate. But where can a night with the locals, a man dressed in Tinfoil and 14 cheerleaders take you?

Beth’s Review

I read this book a year ago now, so it’s interesting to find out if my thoughts are still the same!

To put it simply, this story is fun and easy to read. I sped through it within a matter of hours. But that doesn’t mask the cliche, cheesy plot and characters. Much like with many YA romances, I easily guessed what was going to happen in this book. Did that take the enjoyment out of it? Yes and no. I like surprise, but at the same time this wasn’t completely insta-love. It balanced out pretty well, but it wasn’t perfect overall.

I enjoyed the tweaks in this story. The characters are well developed – having a certain level of complexity but still being memorable. The setting worked, and I was able to picture every part, even without having visited America.

This story was sweet and heart-warming. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes romance and doesn’t mind a little cheese! Also – it’s perfect for this time of year. But bear in mind, it is fun. It’s simple and doesn’t follow a complex plot. It’s not poetic, and it doesn’t leave you contemplating life. But if you want a relaxing evening without too much thought, go for it!

Pete’s Review

The Jubilee Express was a semi-original take on the classic idea that at Christmas anything can happen. Jubilee or Julie as she prefers embarks on an adventure that she is seemingly sad about yet continues down the wayward path anyway. 
My parents are in jail and they have no way of punishing me were I simply not to go to my grandparents? I’m so annoyed but i’ll still go to my grandparents. I’m at the house of a kind boy who is helping me, I don’t want to leave. But I leave anyway.
Julie’s action seem strangely improbable and unjustifiable in a story that is already so obviously impossible. Its because of these choices that I can’t say that I am in love with this story. Contemporary is supposed to create characters with lives that are just more interesting than our own not more ridiculous. The Jubilee Express fell victim to this warped sub-genre in YA where a girl  who’s life is seemingly perfect turns out to be quite horrible until a mysterious-stranger-handsome-same aged teenage boy is somehow dropped into her life. And then everything is very perfect and we all feel very young and limitless. 
These kinds of stories are always very addictive and this one was too. I read it in one sitting in under two hours. But these kinds of stories are also very predictable. Johnson’s execution of the plot was actually very well done but the plot itself felt like it had been bought from an aisle in a supermarket where all YA authors seem to shop on a shelf with thirty other replicas.
One thing I will say that I liked about this book is that although the plot was cliche the characters were not. Jubilee did not fall into any annoying troupes aside from that weird one where all YA female leads have incredibly strange names. Julie, although at times seemed to make no sense, did have a likeable character and at times I was even chuckling along with her when she faced the next awkward stage in her quest.
I give this book a strong 3.5 out of 5 stars. Should you read it? Certainly. It was a quick and fun read that made me who is for some reason numb to festive cheer (I promise I’m not the Grinch) feel ‘Christmassy’. Just please don’t be expecting it to be Nobel prize worthy. This book is nothing special.
-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽


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