Entertaining, G-rated, YA romance with a strong, anti-bullying message
Reading Level: Young Adult Romance
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Pages: 214 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Soon after a traumatic experience during her sophomore year at a huge high school in Indianapolis, Indiana, Tierney Hiatt’s divorced mother was remarried to a wealthy man named Doug. In the process, Tierney gained a kind and generous stepdad and a wonderful stepsister named Hannah, who is three years younger than Tierney. In addition, the marriage enabled Tierney to move away and achieve a desperately needed fresh start, in a new school in the exurban, rural countryside outside Indianapolis. For the past year, Tierney’s only goal in life has been social invisibility. Her mother, Doug and Hannah are the only relationships she wants. She has refused to make friends or date, because she believes the risk of betrayal is simply too great. At school, she studies hard, talks to no one but her teachers, and shields herself from others behind the disguise of a thick fall of hair across her face and unfashionable, nondescript clothing. The story opens at the beginning of Tierney’s senior year, as she reassures herself that she only has nine more months to slog through before she can escape at last from beneath the heavy yoke of high school.
Unfortunately, the invisibility ploy that worked so well as a junior is drastically threatened at the very start of her senior year, when she is assigned by her physics instructor to fellow senior, Noah Jacobs, as a permanent lab partner for the whole year. And shortly after that, fate piles calamity on top of catastrophe when she and Noah are both pressured as well into accepting joint responsibility for the planning committee for the upcoming Homecoming dance. Of all the people in school she might have been shackled to, Noah is Tierney’s worst-case scenario. He is an extremely popular, handsome, basketball star who is so outgoing, anyone standing anywhere near him is guaranteed to attract attention, which will effectively torpedo any chance of her continuing to hide in the shadows. Last, and anything but least, Tierney has strenuously resisted a persistent, aggravating crush on Noah since she first encountered him last year, and she soon discovers to her deep dismay that the more time she spends with him, the more attracted to him she becomes.
This well written YA romance, with its compelling subplot about school bullying, is a fast and entertaining read. Tierney and Noah are both wounded souls, each in their own way, and as they gradually evolve from prickly strangers into tentative friendship due to their two different enforced partnerships, it is lovely to see how they connect not only with each other, but with both of their families and Noah’s friends. Unlike so many other YA novels, the parents of both Tierney and Noah are not dysfunctional nightmares. Instead, they are wonderful people, and I loved reading about them. I also appreciated the realistic and inspiring portrayal of how Tierney and Noah help each other to heal emotionally and encourage each other to reach for their deepest dreams.
This book is part of a series whose overarching theme is a group of boys who are all on the school’s varsity basketball team and are all good friends. In this case, the basketball player is Noah. There are continuing characters throughout the series, but each book stands alone as a “happily ever after” (HEA) romance. The interlinked characters who are protagonists of their own novels do not overshadow the story in this book when they show up in significant cameo appearances. The focus throughout remains on the two very sympathetic, romantic protagonists.
This story is told in the alternating points of view (POV) of both Tierney and Noah, which is a long-time genre expectation for adult romance novels. I personally much prefer it when that occurs in YA romances rather than the more common choice of YA authors to write YA romance novels from only the first-person POV of the heroine. By offering the hero’s POV as well, we get a chance to truly understand his motivations. Noah is a delightful hero and very much worth getting to know.
This is a G-rated AKA “sweet” romance, suitable for all ages, as are all the books in this series. There is no illicit drug use, no wild parties with underage drinking and drunkenness, and no sex. The two protagonists do, however, have strong, obvious chemistry together, which is quite a feat of authorial talent, given that there is no overt sensuality in this book beyond a few hugs and kisses.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4
Social Drama Plot: 4