ARC Review: “Stealing Parker” by Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker (Hundred Oaks #2) by Miranda Kenneally

Goodreads | Amazon

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC! This book is now available.

Total disclaimer: I never read Catching Jordan. I really wanted too, but I just never did. However, I was not immune to all the hype surrounding the book, and it’s sequel. So when Stealing Parker showed up on NetGalley, there is no denying how hard I pounced on it.

I was really disappointed with what I got.

I expected a story about a girl who turns into a little bit of a slut to show that she isn’t gay, like her mom turned out to be. That much is in the blurb. (Okay, the last part isn’t explicit, but I guessed. That’s not even a spoiler, because it’s right in the first chapter.) There was definetly that in this book. However, Kenneally tries to fit SO MUCH ELSE in here that nearly every plot and subplot got lost. Let me try and give you a run down without spoiling things. This book included:

1. Discussion about gayness (from Parker’s mom and a friend)

2. How the Christian church deals with gays, people associated with gays, and also “sluts”

3. Student/teacher relationships

4. Drug problems

5. Losing your best friends/being bullied

6. How other people’s opinions of you affect you

7. Mother/daughter issues

8. Father/daughter issues

9. Sibling issues

10. Absentee mother issues

11. Asberger’s Syndrome

12. Figuring out who you really are and want to be

I could probably go on, but I think you see the point. I mean, Asberger’s Syndrome? It’s a big issue, yes, so it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned for five seconds for no particular reason. Some of those, like Asberger’s and the drug problems, don’t relate to Parker directly, but were squashed into the back as even more subplot lines. There were also multiple gay plot lines, but the one relating to Parker’s friend basically only exists to complicate Parker’s relationship to her “true love.” When issues that are very, very big just get marginalized, I get pretty annoyed. I really just didn’t understand why there was so much in this book, when any one of the issues mentioned above could be a book BY THEMSELVES. All the points Kenneally was trying to make–and all were good!–just got lost in the jumble.

I think my other major problem with this book was the student/teacher relationship. It made me feel icky throughout the whole book, which I think was the point. I mean, obviously I wasn’t supposed to feel GOOD about it. (I’m looking at you, Pretty Little Liars.) Still, the way it was handled in the end also confused me. Everyone kept saying it was the teacher’s fault, as if he had forced her into the relationship. Personally, I found that the wrong way to handle that. There isn’t really a right way, I know, but Parker totally had a LOUD voice in how that relationship went down, and it wasn’t right for everyone to say she was coerced into the whole thing.

Basically, I think the problem with this book was that Kenneally overreached herself. There was a really cute love story in here, but it got covered up and pushed around by a lot of other big issues. There were way too many stories in here for one book, so we never got to see the full potential of any one of them. I appreciated each and every one of the messages, but you can’t here them clearly if dozens are shouting at once. Still, I look forward to finally checking out Catching Jordan (who does make several cameos in this book!).

Stealing Parker will be followed by more companion books, Things I Can’t Forget and Racing Savannah, in 2013.

ARC Review: “Who I Kissed” by Janet Gurtler

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Goodreads | Amazon

She Never Thought A Kiss Could Kill. . .

Samantha is new at school and just recently joined the swim team.  She’s been flirting with one of her teammates, Zee, who invites her to a party and just as quickly dumps her for another girl.  Hurt, but pretending not to care, she turns to his best friend, Alex, and gives him a kiss.  And he dies—right in her arms.  Alex was allergic to peanuts, and Samantha had eaten a peanut butter sandwich right before the party.  She didn’t know.  Overnight, Samantha turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes.  Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she will have to find the inner-strength to forgive herself for the tragedy.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC! This book was released October 1, 2012.

By the time I was approved for this on NetGalley, I had completely forgotten I’d requested it at all. I wish I remembered the reasoning behind it, but I don’t. This isn’t a typical book for me to pick up.

As it appears, this book has a very emotional story in it. Unlike some books I’ve read recently, it really does cut to the chase with Alex’s death and leaves a majority of the book to Sam dealing with her grief. (Books that don’t disperse with things they’ve already told us will happen in the blurb seem to be a trend for some reason lately.)

Sam herself is a pretty strong character. Her grief is real. That said, the way that she deals with it sometimes leaves the reader and well as her detached from the whole thing. I understand that it’s hard to write about a character being detached while keeping the reader connected, but by the end of the book I found myself connecting less and less with Sam–which is a problem when it’s her emotional story driving the entire thing.

However, the multitude of Sam’s emotional stories in this thing was even a bigger problem. This book is hardly just about Sam, Zee and Alex. It’s about her estranged relationship with her father, the fact that her mother died young and Sam never knew her and then on top of that all of the different grief storylines. There’s Sam trying to deal with the death herself (this includes her refusal to swim and a bad relationship), Sam dealing with her classmates and then Sam trying to deal with Alex’s family. Frankly, it’s all just too much. While I understand what Gurtler was trying to do and have the utmost respect for it, it didn’t come off as well as I’d have liked. Too many subplot lines are smushed into the cracks.

The rest of the characters didn’t really have the chops to back up these plot lines, either. Honestly, the character with the most pop was Sam’s crazy, amazing aunt and her dog. At times I felt closer to the characters who were dead, Alex and Sam’s mom. Several more minor characters get more face time than Zee, despite Sam’s continued affirmations that he’s important. Once again, with all the different plot lines, there were too many characters with too many good, deep ideas to all fit into one 312 page book.

I will say, though, that the story still packs an emotional punch. I felt for each character every step of the way, even if I was more connecting to my own feelings of lost than the ones being portrayed in the pages. Not one of the topics dealt with in this book is an easy one, and each one is important. It also wasn’t your typical high school drama story, even if some of the background characters did fall into cliches. They weren’t important enough for me to really care, and they constructed fast stereotypes so that Gurtler could get on with the story.

All in all, I would recommend this to lovers of YA contemporary novels who want larger themes than just romance. I think fans of authors such as Sarah Dessens would absolutely adore this one. I enjoyed this one as much as I did because of how different it was from my normal reading, and the attempt to make it about so much more then just romance.