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.

My Summer 2013 TBR List


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I haven’t written a Top Ten Tuesday post since April!  I’m glad it’s finally summer so I can make more time to blog and read.  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about the summer reads at the top of our list.  There are more books that I want to read this summer than I can possibly list, so I’m going to break this down into a few different categories and include more than ten books.

Backlist Titles (Released in 2012 or earlier):

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles (Goodreads)–I’ve had this on to-read lists like this before, but I still haven’t read it.  There’s really no excuse, especially since it’s so popular in my classroom.

The Gray Wolf Throne & The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads)–I’m cheating and making two books count as one since I need to finish this series.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–I haven’t read many reviews for this one, but I remember seeing it at Barnes & Noble last summer, being drawn to the cover, and reading the first chapter in the store.  I knew I was going to like it, but I didn’t buy it (so stupid).  After that I didn’t see it at the store again.  One way or another I was chatting with Kelly @ Stacked about this title and she offered to give me her copy 🙂  I’m confident that my students and I will like this debut.

Jumping Off SwingsThe Gray Wolf ThroneThe Crimson CrownFingerprints of You

Recent Releases (Released in 2013):

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads): Before the release of The 5th Wave, I posted the book trailers made to advertise it.  My students were hooked; I had to create a waiting list.  I ordered a copy and when it arrived I read the first couple chapters.  I’m hooked as well.

Over You by Amy Reed (Goodreads): I have a couple of Amy Reed’s books in my classroom, but I’ve never had the chance to read them since they’re always checked out.  I’ve read the first forty pages of Over You, and even though I’m still getting used to the writing style for it, I really like the story.  I’m looking forward to finishing this over the summer.

Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin (Goodreads): It’s summertime, so I should read a summery book, right? 🙂

The 5th WaveStyle: "Porcelain vivid"Rules of Summer

Upcoming Releases (2013 ARCs):

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles (Goodreads): Jillian @ Heise Reads and Recommends is a wonderful friend.  She’s even more wonderful for sending me her ARC to read 🙂

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads): If you know how much I LOVE Trish’s debut, Something Like Normal, then you can understand why I’m excited to read her sophomore release.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Goodreads): Did I mention how wonderful Jillian is? 😉  I’ve been wanting to read this since that crazy last page of The Raven Boys.  I love it when friends share!

Wild CardsWhere the Stars Still ShineThe Dream Thieves

NetGalley Titles:

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Goodreads): This August release has so many aspects to it that make it intriguing. It’s LGBT, it has Iranian characters, and so much more. I hope it’s as good as it sounds!

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles (Goodreads): Jo Knowles makes my list twice and it’s because she’s a great author!  It’s told from a guy’s point of view, it deals with teen pregnancy, and I’ve already heard awesome things about it. This releases in September.

New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (Goodreads): I loved Lorraine’s debut, Other Words for Love, so I jumped at the opportunity to read her New Adult release, New Money.

If You Could Be MineLiving with Jackie ChanNew Money

Flash Reviews (6)

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles
Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.

Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

Flash Review:  I’m a big fan of the Perfect Chemistry trilogy and the Fuentes brothers.  The stories are predictable, but the characters are engaging, the plots move quickly, and the relationships are exciting.  Luis is quite different from his brothers in the sense that he tries to avoid violence and the gang life, which was a nice change of pace from the other two books.  I would have enjoyed Chain Reaction more, however, if it would have been more of its own novel.  What I mean by that is Luis’s story was a mixture of Alex’s story and Carlos’ story.  Just like Alex, Luis and Nikki have chemistry together.  Very much like Carlos, Luis falls for a girl that’s tough around the edges and wary of him.  I felt like I was reading both Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction.  Luis was confronted with many of the same conflicts that his brothers were in their novels.  The story does become , but it’s not until later in the book.  I did enjoy reading it, it just wasn’t a 4 or 5 star novel like the other two.

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems – only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

Using just the right amount of romance, family drama, and cute boys, The Sweetest Thing will entice fans with its perfect mixture of girl-friendly ingredients.

Flash Review: I need to say first that The Sweetest Thing had me going through all sorts of cravings.  Sheridan is an absolute perfectionist about her cakes, so her descriptions were quite detailed which made my mouth water more times than not.  Christina Mandelski has written a novel that girls who like novels by Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti will enjoySheridan is a character that a variety of readers can relate to, whether they aspire to be a baker, feel like an outsider, lack a relationship with their mother, or simply want to read a novel and empathize with a character.  While I enjoyed Mandelski’s debut, I did at times find myself irritated with Sheridan.  She is so stubborn about connecting with her mother and not cooperating with her father or friends.  It makes for a layered conflict, but it could have been resolved sooner without hurting the novel.  Still, Sheridan is a character that girls can learn from.  My girls in book club chose this as our first novel, and I’m really looking forward to discussing it with them this week.


Thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen :)

Waiting on Wednesday–Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Squee! I LOVE Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction!  I can’t wait until the 16th.  We really haven’t gotten to know Luis yet, so I’m especially excited to read an entire book about him.  I’ve only just recently added these books to my classroom library and they’re already incredibly popular.  If you haven’t read them, and you like a good, steamy romance, I suggest you get a copy of Perfect Chemistry.

Title & Author: Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Release Date: August 16, 2011

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads): Luis Fuentes is a good boy who doesn’t live with the angst that his big brothers, Alex and Carlos, have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. But when he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he’s never known, and just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?

Continuing all the steamy romance of the first two books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Simone Elkeles gives fans one more satisfying taste of the irresistible Fuentes boys.

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