G-rated YA romance with family drama
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: January 22, 2020
Pages: 166 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Rosalie, Connor and Harley are all 16-year-old high school juniors. Harley is Connor’s stepsister and is the protagonist of the second book in this YA romantic duology. Both books are stand-alone, HEA romances, but since Harley is introduced in this book as an important subcharacter, it will definitely enhance the experience of reading her novel by reading this one first.
Connor’s father abandoned him and his mother years ago, and his mother has very recently remarried. Her husband’s daughter is Harley. Connor and Harley are experiencing a difficult adjustment to being step-siblings, and Connor is uncomfortable with having his stepfather underfoot and sucking up most of his mother’s attention. Worse, because of his stepfather’s job, their blended family has had to move across the country, and Connor and Harley are both struggling with starting a new school.
It is shocking to Harley and Connor at the new high school when they find themselves entirely reversing their former social standings. Connor is extremely handsome, flirtatiously charming, and played in a rock band at his former town. This combination at his old school made him enormously popular. In contrast, Harley had spent her entire adolescence to date as a classic, shy, introverted, loner geek who had no interest in living a social whirl such as Connor reveled in. Unfortunately for Connor, he unknowingly commits social suicide his first day at the new school by flirting with an off-limits girl, a gorgeous cheerleader named Rosalie. Her ex-boyfriend, a star of the football team, has labeled her an ice queen and, for the last year since the breakup, has bullied any other boy in school who might want to date Rosalie into staying away from her. The ex starts spreading awful rumors about Connor, such as saying that he’s a homeless drug dealer, and the whole school ridicules him.
In contrast, Harley has attracted the romantic interest of the handsome quarterback of the football team, Tristan, and as a result has found herself overwhelmed by the open-armed welcome of the most popular teens in school.
The shock of losing everything that matters most to him has Connor suffering from the worst kind of culture shock. But he finds himself attracted to and intrigued by the mystery that is Rosalie to such an extent that he is determined to get to know her better, no matter the consequences. Not only that, though Connor has never had a real girlfriend before, he is interested in Rosalie to such a degree that he is actually quite serious about her.
Rosalie’s main goal in life is to keep her head down and avoid conflict as much as possible. To her, life as a popular person in high school is an exhausting tightrope walk and anything but fulfilling. On top of that, her parents’ marriage is breaking down, and she has to stuff down her own feelings of abandonment while she attempts to keep their home life as stable as possible for her much younger twin brothers.
After her bad experiences with her ex-boyfriend and the way her father has cheated on her mother, Rosalie doesn’t trust the male of the species. It is obvious that Connor is trying to win her over, but she doesn’t trust his motivations. And even if she wanted to go out with him, her ex and her best friends, who are fellow cheerleaders and the resident Mean Girls of the school, would never support her doing that.
In addition to the main romance plot, this engaging YA novel contains compelling, YA, social-drama and family-drama plots.
I liked both Connor and Rosalie very much and enjoyed experiencing the evolution of their relationship from strangers, to friends, to romance. Connor and Rosalie are both struggling with self-esteem and trust issues, and their personal growth from distrust to trust is a sympathetic and moving journey. I especially appreciated that this book is written from the dual point of view of both Connor and Rosalie, which allows the reader to get to know both of them intimately.
There are many important subcharacters in this book, but none of them overshadow the main plot, which is the romance. I particularly enjoyed Connor’s relationship with Harley as they maneuver the treacherous waters of becoming a blended family and figuring out how to be functional step-siblings and potentially friends.
This book is mostly G-rated. There is no physical contact beyond some kissing, and no bad language. At one point Rosalie does nurse a beer, thus engaging in underage drinking at a party, but it is not a wild bacchanalian revel with everybody getting drunk and crazy.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4
Family Drama Plot: 4
Social Drama Plot: 4