Strike Out by Jordan Ford

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G-rated, YA, multicultural romance

Strike Out (Barlow Sisters #2) by Jordan Ford

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: October 14, 2017
Pages: 458 pages
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Max Barlow, an 18-year-old, high-school senior, is enormously skilled at baseball, but she is no longer as in love with it and committed to it as she has been for the past 13 years. Instead, she longs to cut back on it, and even give it up entirely if necessary, in order to carve out time to pursue music. Unfortunately, if she follows her own heart, she will break her father’s. He has been massively supportive all these years of Max, her twin Maddie, and her younger sister Chloe, as three terrifically talented baseball players. Dad loves all three of his girls, but Max believes he puts special focus on her as the son he never had. His dearest dream is that she win a scholarship to play college baseball, and he has put a huge amount of effort into helping make that happen.

Knowing all that, how can she possibly admit to him, after all his support and caring, that she doesn’t share his dream anymore? He will be crushed. But if she doesn’t follow her true passion, she will be crushed herself. Her own deepest dream is to play the guitar in a band and pursue a degree in music, something she is equally, naturally gifted at.

Her life seems to be at an intractable stalemate until a crucial, personal journey toward being true to herself is triggered by Cairo Hale, a gorgeous fellow senior at her school who is a professional musician who plays in a rock band. Cairo sees the musical passion in Max, volunteers to become her mentor, and very soon becomes a close friend who has the potential to be much, much more.

I really enjoyed this slow-burn, G-rated, YA romance. Though I was disappointed there was no focus on Max as a baseball star, because I personally love YA sports romances, I liked Max and Cairo a lot, both individually and as a couple. I also very much enjoyed Max’s journey as a budding, gifted musician.

I always prefer romance novels written in dual point of view, as this book is, because it allows the reader to get to know the hero well, and Cairo is a delightful hero well worth knowing. His mother is an Indian-American of East Indian descent, and his father is an Irish immigrant who is the music teacher at the high school that Max and Cairo attend. I loved reading about Cairo’s delightful parents and his terrific, supportive relationship with them. They were one of my favorite parts of the book.

For all those reasons, this story was moving along swimmingly, as far as I was concerned, until the last 10% of the book. At that point, the author suddenly switches the tone of the book from light drama, focused on Max’s romance and her growth as a musician, into a very dark, gritty melodrama with evil villains, which I found quite jarring. Though all plot points in this particular book are fully tied up and there is the expected HEA (or, rather, “happy for now”) that makes any romance novel worth reading, the author ends this book on a major cliffhanger on behalf of the inciting incident for the third book in the series. Based on that setup, it is clear that the third and final book in this trilogy isn’t going to focus on baseball any more than this one does. Rather, it seems clear that it will continue full bore into more dark melodrama. This switch in tone may not be a problem for readers who enjoy evil villains. But that sort of story is a bit too harsh for my own personal taste, and I will most likely not continue on reading the third book even though I have read this book and the first one in this series.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 3

Romance Plot: 4

Music Plot: 5

Violent, Melodrama Plot: 2

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

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