by Simone Elkeles
To be published by Walker BFYR
on October 1, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
Connect with the author: website | Twitter.
Summary via Booklikes: 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.My take: If you've read any books by Simone Elkeles, you probably know that she's great at writing steamy, forbidden YA relationships -- drawing out the tension and amping up the emotion. I also love that she offers up a cast of diverse and authentic-seeming teen characters.
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?
Wild Cards has all of this author's trademark elements. Derek has been kicked out of boarding school and is forced to move to Chicago with his stepmother and stepbrother, as his father is deployed. He quickly meets cute with his new step-aunt, Ashtyn (she and his stepmother are sisters) and the couple begins to warily circle one other. Ashtyn has problems of her own -- her boyfriend, jealous that she's been voted football team captain, seems resentful and distant. Plus, Ashtyn dreams of playing football in college. Of course, Derek and Ashtyn are desperately, secretly attracted to each other. It's all pretty fun.
The emotional aspect of this book really worked for me. Derek's anguish over the loss of his mother was particularly moving. Plus, as I said before, Simone Elkeles is a master of writing sexual tension. Derek's attracted to Ashtyn, she has a boyfriend, and the two of them are living in close quarters. I also liked the dual narration and I think that Simone Elkeles also writes a male POV particularly well. (Just a note: between the male POV and the football, this book has plenty of cursing, plus a discussion of an aspect of male grooming that, for me, was a first for a YA book. My mouth dropped open, and then I was cracking up.)
I'm not a football fan, so I'll leave the discussion of this book's football elements to those who are. But I was surprised that a book about a female football player didn't really feature football games as part of the story. However, there was a part of the book where Ashtyn was the only girl at football camp, and I thought the portrayal of the special accommodations the camp had to make for her -- and the hostility and outright sabotage she suffers at the hands of her fellow campers -- both gripping and heartbreaking.
There's a reveal about Derek near the end that, for me, ended up limiting Ashtyn's opportunity to have a moment that I'd been waiting for. If you've read the book and want to know my thoughts, just highlight the blank space below for my spoiler 2 cents. And please be careful of leaving spoilers in comments:
I felt that the reveal that Derek was not just a football player himself, but one of the best quarterbacks around, and someone who could lead Ashtyn's team to victory, really limited Ashtyn's ability to shine as a female athlete. I was really wishing that after Landon left the team, she would have the chance to rally the guys (who, after all, voted her captain) and help them play to the best of their ability as a team. I was a little disappointed that the ending handed her a boyfriend to rescue her instead of letting her shine on her own.
If you're a Simone Elkeles fan, I think you'll enjoy Wild Cards. If you've never tried one of her books, and prefer your YA on the steamy, angsty side, you should definitely check this book out!