Review: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Wild CardsTitle: Wild Cards

Author: Simone Elkeles

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 24th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemporary

Source: ARC borrowed

Summary (From Goodreads):

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?

Hmmm…I have a lot of thoughts about Wild Cards.  I enjoy reading Simone Elkeles books–I’ve read almost all of them–but this should have been better.  There’s plenty of potential for this to be a better written story with more developed characters.  I think Simone Elkeles tried to write a girl-who-plays-football book, but she ended up with a girl-who-falls-for-a-bad-boy book.

Elkeles is known for her YA romance, and she really turns it up in Wild Cards.  She’s more descriptive than she has been in other books.  I don’t know if it is really necessary though.  The reason I’m not sure it is necessary is that while I was reading it, I kept thinking of it as writing that wanted to be adult, but didn’t fall under New Adult, so it’s tamer for older young adult audiences.  I don’t have a problem adding this to my class library, and I will buy my own copy for that purpose, but those few scenes made me wonder what her real intentions were when she wrote this.

I did like Derek’s character.  Why is Simone Elkeles so stuck on writing “bad boy” characters?  Derek really isn’t a bad boy.  I guess he’s supposed to be because he pulled a prank at his old school, talks with a “southern” accent, has a good body, and is coy with Ashtyn.  But really, he never truly acts like a bad boy.  Ashtyn tells us he is, which is an issue I have with the writing in Wild Cards, but I never really saw anything that would make Derek a bad boy, at least under my definition.  Derek may not be forthright with his emotions, but there isn’t a whole lot of deep discussion going on or being attempted either.  His character was the most developed and had the strongest voice which is why I liked reading his parts.

Ashtyn, on the other hand, usually irritated me.  There is so much potential to write her into a great character.  I kept waiting for all of the great football scenes that she was supposed to be in, but there are hardly any.  She’s a kicker, so I understand that her role on the team isn’t as involved, but I think I can count the number of legitimate football scenes she is in on one hand.  I want to hand this to my students who crave more books like Dairy Queen and Catching Jordan, but I think Wild Cards will ultimately disappoint those readers.  It’s all about Ashtyn being wishy-washy over Derek and vice versa.  Sigh.  The end of the book redeemed some of what’s lacking in regards to sports, but it didn’t mean as much because I never really felt Ashtyn’s passion for football.  She told me all about it, and I understand the history, but it fell flat.  Again with the telling.

This is a very critical review, but like I said, I still enjoyed it and will read the second book.  It’s still a fun book to read and an easy read.  I went into reading it expecting more than what I got which is why I’m so disappointed.  I know plenty of my girls will devour this book when I buy a copy for my classroom.  I just wish it went through more revision.


  1. Interesting review – I’ve been looking forward to reading this one because I’m also a fan of Simone Elkeles books.

  2. Just finished this one yesterday and I COMPLETELY agree with your review. Way too much telling and not enough showing. I still enjoyed the story (finished it in a day), but I really wanted more. I know my students will still eat this book up, but I wish there was more substance to it…dang!

I love comments!

%d bloggers like this: