Series: Hundred Oaks
Also in this series: Catching Jordan
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on 7/5/16
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports & Recreation
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex and it is shown)
There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
Kenneally has tackled another tough and timely issue (actually, more than one) in her latest Hundred Oaks book and, as usual, she does so with honesty and realism. Her characters don’t always act the way we’d like them to, but they’re so relatable that we can understand the choices they make and empathize with them.
The synopsis does a good job describing the book, so I’ll just jump straight into my review!
What Fed My Addiction:
- The big issue. Taylor has spent her life trying to live up to her parents’ expectations. She’s not unhappy about it, per se – she actually feels like she thrives in a work-all-the-time lifestyle – it’s just that she’s never put a lot of thought into why she makes the choices she does. She is so focused on academic success and long-term goals (that have been more or less given to her by others) that she sometimes resorts to drastic measures to achieve them. That’s where the “big issue” comes in. I don’t feel like I can really reveal what it is without it being a spoiler because the book is more enjoyable when there’s mystery around what exactly happened between Taylor and her boyfriend that got her kicked out of her prestigious boarding school, but I will say that she made a decision that’s more and more common in today’s high schools and universities, so I felt like it was an apt topic for Kenneally to tackle.
- Not so adrift. When Taylor gets kicked out of school, she feels very adrift – momentarily – but she picks herself back up and immediately starts working on her goals again, knowing that she’s going to have to go about getting them a bit differently than she had planned. Taylor is incredibly frustrated that one moment in her life has the potential to derail her so completely, and she is determined not to give up on any of her dreams and aspirations, even if she has to work harder than ever to achieve them and she has less support from the people around her. This is definitely admirable, but as the book progresses, Taylor starts to realize that maybe she should work toward her own goals rather than the ones she’s been given by default because of her family connections. She slowly starts to realize that academic and even career success isn’t worth it if it comes at the cost of her happiness.
- Family. Taylor’s family is complicated and realistic. I loved that her father was portrayed as a man who was tough on her but not a “cold political figure” (for some reason, when characters’ parents are in politics, they’re usually shown as these distant or downright cold people – I often think, “Geez, senators are people too – I don’t see why being in politics makes you automatically unaffectionate toward your kids!”). Taylor’s dad was a good, realistic balance. He expected Taylor to make her own way in the world and not rely on his connections, but he also did seem to genuinely care about Taylor – even though he was distant at first because of disappointment in her decisions. The rest of Taylor’s family was equally complex – they were neither super warm and likable or overly distant and stuffy (though her mom was a bit borderline there – she was the least likable of the bunch). They seemed like a real family that sometimes felt frustrated and disappointed with each other, but still always loved each other.
- Ezra. I can’t talk about the book without at least addressing the love interest – Ezra. He was sweet and kind and urged Taylor to think about herself rather than just what her family wanted for her. There was also a bit of mystery around why Ezra dropped out of school, and it turned out there was an important issue addressed there as well – but again, I don’t want to reveal what it was. I loved Ezra and Taylor together and felt like they complemented each other perfectly.
What Left Me Wanting More:
- Responsibility. There were times when I felt like Taylor didn’t take enough responsibility for what happened to her. After all, even though she did cover for her boyfriend, she made choices that put her in that situation and wasn’t completely innocent (I wish I could say more than that, but I can’t figure out a way to do it without being spoilery). She also made the choice to cover for her boyfriend (hoping that either her father’s position would save her or that her boyfriend would step in and do the right thing and admit his part in it all). I could definitely understand her bitterness toward her boyfriend for letting things get out of hand, but I couldn’t help but think that she should have taken more responsibility for it too. She made the choice to cover for him – he didn’t ask her to. And then she basically refused to talk to him afterward, so it’s not like they talked through what was happening. Even though we didn’t see his side of things, I would imagine that he was just as confused and blindsided as she was. And since they were supposedly in love, a conversation or two about how it all went down would have been nice.
- Romance developed a bit too quickly. While I really loved Ezra and Taylor together, they pretty much went from 0-60 in no time at all (both physically and emotionally). I got that they had history, but I would have loved to see a bit more development between them first. This is a personal preference of mine, though, especially when it comes to YA.
Oh, I just realized that I forgot to mention soccer. I’m not a sports girl, so the sports parts of these Hundred Oaks books never stand out for me, but those of you who are will love the role that soccer played in the story and in Taylor’s life. This was another great read – Kenneally has a knack for writing realistic teens, and this book was no exception! I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About Miranda Kenneally:
Growing up in Tennessee, MIRANDA KENNEALLY dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband. Visit mirandakenneally.com