Just Finished Reading …. Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Wild Cards
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.
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?
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.

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!


  1. In general I just thought the whole ending was a bit rushed especially the part with Derek's grandmother who I also thought made things a bit easier for everyone (with all of her $) instead of letting them struggle more. Still I liked this first experience with Elkeles and I look forward to more in this series.

  2. I absolutely loved this book. I'm a huge Elkeles fan so it wasn't a hardship at all. I'm glad you liked it too. I think I said something similar: this is a signature Simone Elkeles. :)

  3. I have read a couple of Elkeles books and enjoyed the characters and the overall tension in the story. I haven't heard of this one yet; thanks for highlighting it!

  4. Love this review! I adore her other series so I think I will like this one as well.

  5. I've only read one of Jennifer Echols books (Dirty Little Secret), which I did really enjoy. I agree with you on that spoiler. I'll probably eventually read this one, but I've got books that are higher on my list to get to first.

  6. Heehee. My mouth totally dropped open at that point too! And I'll admit, I definitely cracked up! I didn't think this one was as good as her other work, though. :/ The spoilerish two cents-- I agree. I never really thought about that, but...I agree completely! Awesome review, Jen!

  7. It's so good that the emotional aspects of this book worked well for you. I don't read contemporary YA often, and I've never read anything by Simone Elkeles, but I've been seeing a lot of great reviews for this one so it might be a great one to start with.
    Lovely review.

  8. You are right on the money with the spoiler. And all of her success with colleges, etc, kind of had the same thing going on.

  9. I can't wait to read this book! Simone Elkeles is one of my favorite YA authors :) Great review!

  10. I haven't read anything by Simone Elkeles yet, but Wild Card sounds like a great contemporary YA. I love romance (steamy, forbidden YA relationships) and the football setting sounds interesting too. Thanks for the wonderful review Jen.

  11. I am reading this one soon but I am really worried as I wasn't a fan of Perfect Chemistry, but the characters here sound actually convincing.

    Great review, hon! <33

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  13. I enjoyed Wild Cards. Simone Elkeles has a definite formula but it works - even if it comes off cheesy at times but I agree with you about the ending.

    It kind of ruined the book for me for the reasons you expressed (don't' want to spoil here) I was so disappointed but otherwise it was a fun read.

  14. I've honestly only read a couple books from her, and not the super popular Perfect Chemistry series. Unfortunately, I didn't love the books and it has kept me from trying her other stuff. I should check them out though. I am a fan of some of the elements to her writing you described. :)

  15. I have not read any books by Simone Elkeles, though I think I own some if I didn't give them away o.O. I've heard she writes steamy romances with diverse characters, but I've also heard some negative things like the usage of cliches.

    Woot for a female character who dreams of playing sports. You also don't seem to get a lot of female characters who a.) like science or b.) like sports/physical education in young adult novels. There are a few that focus specifically on those but... anyway, go Ashtyn!

    Living in close quarters really heightens the sexual tension. I think that's one of the reasons why NA has been so successful - that's college for you. Dual narration, too, is really great with that as well. Lol an aspect of male grooming? I'm curious by your word choice and that you then were cracking up... If it's what I'm thinking now...

    I completely agree with your spoiler. That sounds really sad too given that it's her dream and she got bullied at her camp. Grrrr about having a boyfriend "come" to the rescue instead of letting her handle it; that is probably one of my number one pet peeves in a novel. Even if that kind of thing happens in life, why does it need to happen in a novel when inherent to novels = character growth. Grr.


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