Review: Wild Cards

wild cardsReviewed by Janell

In this mature YA, Derek the prankster gets kicked out of boarding school and has to move in with his stepmother while his dad is deployed in the Navy. Stepmother takes him to live with her checked-out father and her younger sister, Ashtyn, who happens to be a sexy girl Derek’s age. Ashtyn (I kind of lament the fact that that can be a real name) is a kicker on her high school football team, and she’s also dating the quarterback.

Derek doesn’t want to get involved with this new family structure. His plan is to move back to California as soon as he’s able. Ashtyn doesn’t like Derek because he’s too sexy, her nephew likes him better than her, her dog prefers him, and he eats healthy food. Of course they’re attracted to each other, underneath Derek’s teasing and Ashtyn’s hatred.

The conflict between Derek and Ashtyn lies in the fact that he doesn’t want a relationship, and she doesn’t trust him, all surrounded by the fact that he’s planning to leave. Which all seem like perfectly good reasons to leave each other alone, except they live in the same house, push each others’ buttons, and end up together on a road trip to Texas.

I don’t usually like the enemies-to-lovers trope, because I feel that the enemies part has the characters clinging to unsubstantiated bad first impressions, and they don’t allow themselves to see past it until they are gobsmacked by the realization that they are in love.

That pretty much sums up Ashtyn in this book. She craves a hero, someone to stand by her, hold her, tell her everything will be okay. She doesn’t see any good qualities in Derek, and believes he’s a shallow manwhore until suddenly she’s in love with him. Then, she says, “Could I be someone else for him? If I change, will he want to love me?” And later, “If I had the power to make him fall in love with me, would he change his mind and join the [football] team?” She’s a tough, independent girl, contemplating changing herself for a guy? And then telling herself she’s doing it all for the football team?

Derek’s change of feelings happens pretty fast, too. In fact, they spent so much time pushing each other away that I worried that this book would have a sequel to deal with their relationship, because there were hardly enough pages to cover all that needed to happen. But the author pulled it off, barely squeaking in a happy (almost too happy) ending.

I’ve read several books by this author, she’s a pro at writing sharp, introspective teens with great chemistry. I liked the scenes between Derek and Ashtyn, although they both clung to their opinions for too long. I would have liked seeing them as a couple in a relationship, rather than having sex and saying goodbye, then rushing the ending. Still, I’ll read future books by the author because she writes ‘em steamy!

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

Wild Cards
by Simone Elkeles
Release Date: October 3, 2013

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