Title: Wild Cards (#1)
Series: Wild Cards
Author: Simone Elkeles
Expected Publication: September 24th, 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Net Galley
Story Synopsis: 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?
Average Goodreads Rating (as of 09/02/2013): 4.0 Stars
** SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.
♥ Initial Thoughts and Rating:
Christina: Actual rating of 1.5 stars, but I’m rounding up because of the fierce loyalty Ashtyn’s fellow ballers showed her. To be honest, I think this book simply wasn’t for me. I had heard rave reviews about Simone Elkeles’s Perfect Chemistry series, so when I saw this galley, I was immediately intrigued. I’m also a big sports fan in general, but football (NFL, NCAA, high school, etc) is my thing. I was devastated in 7th grade when I was 3.5ft tall and 70lbs and they said I couldn’t play because I would get hurt. (I became a damn good cheerleader, though.) So, when I felt like the blurb was telling me I’d like this because I loved Friday Night Lights (Full hearts, clear eyes, can’t lose. #TeamTaylor) and there was a girl playing the game, I was all over that request button. Sadly, there was little-to-no football in the storyline aside from a few practices and it kind of killed my spirit for this book… aside from the other issues I had with it.
Amy: Actual rating of 2.5 stars. I want to first declare that I am a HUGE fan of Simone’s. I adore her. I’ve probably read her Perfect Chemistry series about 25 times, no joke. But, I’m so bummed to say that Wild Cards fell almost completely flat for me. I wanted to love this book. I really did. It had all the things that I love to see in the stories I read; football talk, an undeniable and consuming romance and a set of badass characters.. while all those components were present, I never really felt that connection with the story and felt that the execution in the narrative and direction of the book was just too far off for me.
♥ What We Liked:
Christina: I liked the sense of camaraderie that Ashtyn had with her teammates. I appreciated that they liked her for her determination, her will to succeed, and her strength, even if she was a girl trying to “play a guy’s game.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that the fact their her teammates constantly had her back and treated her like one of them was about the only part of the book that I actually did enjoy.
Amy: There were brief glances at awesomeness.. I originally loved the idea of a girl conquering a guys game like football, and also the relationship she shared with her teammates. And even though I had some issues with story itself, it was a clever and inspiring concept for a book. I wouldn’t necessarily label Derek’s character as a “bad boy” either, but he was certainly intriguing.. I just wish we would of gotten to see more of what made him into the guy he was. There’s points of well written tension and affection between Derek and Ashtyn as well. And when it comes to Ashtyn’s character, had she been a little less aggressive in the beginning, I probably would of enjoyed reading about her more. I understand the need to show her as feisty and rigid because of the position of her character, but at the same time, I wish she wouldn’t of come across as such an ice queen straightaway. You can be the strongest of the strong and still be approachable.. but that’s just my opinion. Again, I LOVE SIMONE! And I’m a fan for life! Her ideas, her unique writing style that generally focuses on real topics and people, and her ability to illicit a wide range of emotions from her readers are just some of my favorite things about her.. this book just wasn’t for me.
♥ What We Struggled With:
Christina: The biggest issue I had with this book was the characterizations of Derek and Ashtyn and all the showing and telling that Ms. Elkeles did instead of leading me through the characters’ actions. Derek was supposedly a “bad boy” that was rebelling after his mother’s death, but through his actions, I was lead to believe he was nothing but good aside from a few pranks that were relatively harmless. He mowed grass and fixed sheds that weren’t his own, he was respectful, and he cared about family and values. He had snark and guilt, but he wasn’t a bad boy just because he let his pants sag a little. And for Ashtyn character, I absolutely hated that she was constantly trying to make herself be who she thought Derek would want even though she was supposedly this totally independent, strong chick who did what she wanted. Not only that, but when it really came for her to rise to the top and truly show her strength– show all those non-believers that she was just as capable of playing and succeeding at it as any guy– she gave up and cowered. Where was her spit-fire attitude and drive then? I was so disappointed.
Another thing that bugged me throughout this novel was how quickly their feelings developed for one another and that they were constantly pushing each other away. It came across and contrived and the push-and-pull really wore on my nerves. If they were going to fall for each other so quickly, it seemed like they should have been able to admit it to one another sooner to get over their love-you-love-you-not hurdle despite the obstacles that stood in their way.
Aside from those two major issues, I had several smaller problems with the book. The biggest of the smaller problems was the drama that the whole plot centered around. It was overdone and poorly at that. I wasn’t fond of the ending either, it was cheesy. And the intimate scene (when there finally was one after all the buildup), was unrealistic to me.
Amy: My biggest issue was honestly the lack of football content in the storyline. Maybe, being the massive football fanatic that I am, my expectations were just set too high; though, I’m not sure. I understand that there are a lot of integral parts that contribute to a storyline, but based on the blurb and the title and cover, I was really looking forward to and expecting a plot that was strongly structured around the game. Football played an extremely important role in both Ashtyn’s and Derek’s lives, I just wish that the importance would of been highlighted more effectively throughout the book.
Ashtyn’s character was a little too overpowering for my liking. Now normally, I’d be all WOOHOO! A GIRL THAT PLAYS FOOTBALL! OMG!, but she came off a bit harsh in those first couple of chapters and I felt like her character dominated the story and that Derek was more of a secondary character rather than the other half of the intended focus. I wish we would of learned more about Derek’s football career earlier on in the story too..
I also had a hard time following along with the progression of the story and keeping focus on the characters. I felt the flow and pace was a bit choppy, especially in the beginning of the story. And while Simone always does a great job with the tactfulness of her steamy scenes, I too felt the buildup for the pivotal intimate scene was a bit excessive and the actual act was a bit of a disappointment in the end. How exciting would it of been if that scene or maybe just even one of the more affectionately important scenes would of taken place on the turf of an empty football field? There was so much potential here.. but it unfortunately just missed the mark on too many points.
♥ Rec It?
Christina: I can’t, and that makes me sad because I was truly looking forward to reading this. What you see is what you get, minus the football. It’s a lot of poorly constructed drama, a long drawn out love ordeal, and I didn’t find any real character growth in either of our main characters by the end of the book. But my opinion is one of few, and the average Goodreads rating is 4 stars, so it could simply just be a case of the “wrong book at the wrong time” issue for me. Still, I’d probably wait to see if this one was at the library before I bought it.
Amy: If you’re a hardcore fan of Simone’s, then yes, I would recommend it even though I’d unfortunately have to exclude this particular book from my favorites of her work.
♥ A very special thanks to Bloomsbury USA and Net Galley for allowing us to preview an early copy of this title.