Title: Wild Cards
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Rating: 4 (3.5) out of 5 stars
Summary from Goodreads: After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
First Thoughts: I’m really conflicted after finishing this book; I read it in a day, unable to stop at the end of each chapter, and yet, I found myself wanting more from the writing and the characters. Errr...
This is a fun, read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book. Let’s start with that. I picked it up on a Saturday afternoon and finished it, well, that Saturday night. I kept telling myself I’d stop at the end of this chapter...okay, the next chapter...well, maybe just a few more, until I turned the last page. It’s a smooth read that sucks you in from the beginning to the end.
Although I couldn’t put this book down (partially due to end of break procrastination), my inner reader was conflicted. There are parts in the book that just bothered me. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then I figured it out: too much telling and not enough showing. Instead of showing that Ashtyn had trust issues, the book just bluntly said it (over and over again). Instead of showing Derek’s bad boy side (which I still don’t believe), the book just told us. There are moments where character traits are told to the reader, and honestly, I didn’t believe them. There isn’t evidence (dialogue, action, thoughts, etc…) to back up many of the statements, yet the narrator just expects the reader to believe them. (On a sidenote: I do love a dual-perspective novel; we get both Ashtyn and Derek’s side of the story, which I really enjoy.)
I also feel like there are a lot of forced moments in the story - particularly the physically romantic scenes. In my mind, this book came dangerously close to crossing the young adult to new adult (or whatever you call it) line. There are sex scenes that, although not extremely explicit, are descriptive enough to make me a bit uncomfortable to give it to readers on the young end of the young adult spectrum. These scenes disappointed me, because they are so not necessary. If anything, they turn Ashtyn and Derek’s romance into a physical thing rather than a more emotional connection.
Lastly, I wanted so much more from the characters. I liked Derek a lot, and I thought he was the most well-written of the bunch, but I still don’t believe the bad-boy side. He got expelled for a prank, and that’s about it. As for Ashtyn? I think this is a missed opportunity for Elkeles. Ashtyn had the potential to be a strong female, a tomboy not afraid to be who she was. Instead, there are too many references to how hot she is and the football piece is barely there. I still enjoyed their romance, but I just think there was so much more potential to make their story even better.
I know this sounds like a bad review, but it’s really not. It’s more like a wishful review. I enjoyed the book as it is, but I just saw a missed opportunity for a knockout. If you haven’t read a Simone Elkeles book yet, you definitely need to (she’s like a gateway drug for young adult readers). And even with my disappointment, I’m looking forward to continuing Ashtyn and Derek’s story in the second book.
Final Thoughts: I know my students will eat this book up (as they do with all of Simone Elkeles’ titles), but I found myself somewhat disappointed. It’s an addicting storyline and romance, but there’s just too much telling, rather than showing.
Who Should Read It? Fans of Simone Elkeles, obviously, need to add this to their TBR list. Also, readers of romance - especially edgy, bad-boy books (although Derek isn’t really a bad boy) - will fly through this story. Although it’s pegged as a football book, I think sports’ fans will be disappointed because there’s just not enough football in it. If you want a fun, addicting romance, this is your book. If you are looking for high-level writing, maybe not so much (sorry, Simone!).