Author: Simone Elkeles (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker BYR
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA/NA, Contemporary
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?
Derek pulled a stupid prank, and he's paying the price. Forced to move back home with his step-mother, he has to readjust to a whole new lifestyle and an entirely different crowd of people. Among them is his step-mother's extremely attractive and unavailable sister, Ashtyn. He knows he's not going to stick around if he has any say in the matter, so why not test the waters? Ashtyn, however, can take care of herself. With a clear goal and focus towards becoming a star player in a men's sport, she's thrown a curveball that make just make her vulnerable...and need Derek's help. But is there something more there than either of them are willing (or want) to admit?
If there is one author I know I can turn to for contemporary fiction, it's Simone Elkeles, so when I discovered that her next novel, Wild Cards, was on the table, you'd better believe I was all over it. With great skill and heartfelt emotion, the novel sweeps us up into the story of two utterly believable and completely relatable characters for whom we're powerless but to feel for. Often times, dramatic and peppered with dashes of wit, humour and fun, Wild Cards offers us a journey that's as believable as it is sweet - if only because we can see a little bit of ourselves in Derek and Ashtyn.
I'm no stranger to Ms. Elkeles' work. While some of her fiction works better for me than others, I don't think I can say that I've ever been disappointed, and Wild Cards is no exception to that rule. Derek and Ashtyn were clear, defined characters - both of whom I related to at times, and I felt for throughout. While Derek's tough-guy demeanor was clearly a facade, we could see the same mirrored in Ashtyn, and I appreciated the connection between the two characters that even they probably didn't know they had. It lent a sort of vulnerability to each of them, or a chink in the armour, if you will. I also liked that despite the fact that Derek was decidedly hot and attractive, there was more to him than a blanket stereotype. When we reach into his past and see his emotions for his birth mother who died of cancer, we see a real, true, tender person. Ashtyn was a bit of a kicker for me. She was sassy, judgmental, strong-willed and, frankly, obnoxious at first. But there was also a softer side to her that was just hid by her steely determination. I do think that the plot of Wild Cards took a pretty significant background role to the characters' developing relationship, and I did expect to have a bit more football - think, Friday Night Lights. Yes, there was an undercurrent of football that gently nudged the story along, but Derek and Ashtyn's interactions are what really fueled the entire plot. I think that the novel could have really bumped it up a notch by raising the game stakes, as well as fleshing out the ending a bit further because, in the scheme of things, it was quite abrupt.
Overall, Wild Cards is another notch in Ms. Elkeles' winning YA belt. Despite a few hiccups or flaws, in my humble opinion, it's a sweet, fun, dramatic and engaging read. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA and NA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.