I received this book for free from the Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1) by Simone Elkeles
Published by Walker & Company on 1 October 2013
Source: Book Expo America
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?
Ashtyn is technically Derek’s step-aunt. She plays varsity football and hangs out with the guys on the team, but she’s also girly, loving to dress up and make out with her quarterback boyfriend. But then she gets picked as captain over her boyfriend and that… does not go well. He decides to play for their rival and she sees what a jerk he is. Ashtyn hasn’t had the best luck with people. Her mom skipped town, as did her sister. She plays football hoping to rekindle a bond with her father, but he has never shown up to any of her games.
Together… there is serious chemistry. These two are so good together and they made me laugh. Ashtyn goes out of her way to not like Derek for most of the book and I loved it. He was still there for her, not because he was trying to get with her, but because he believed that she didn’t deserve to struggle through life alone, even if she could handle it on her own.
Something I especially loved was the way family and forgiveness played a major role throughout the book. Derek’s dad is gone, his mom died of cancer. Ashtyn’s whole family is pretty uninvolved in her life. And yet, they were able to make their own family. Brandi, Derek’s step-mom and Ashtyn’s sister, is the unlikely source that brings everyone together. She’s pregnant, which tells Derek that she is a permanent part of his family. More than that, she has a 5-year-old son who is not related to Derek by blood, but who Derek considers a brother and adores. Ashtyn has to try very hard to make him like her, but she puts in the work.
There is something about kids that make us forgive each other and learn how to be a family. No matter how much we’ve been hurt, we don’t want to be the one to break the child’s heart for the first time. And all of the sudden you have a family and you are forgiving each other. Derek’s grandmother also comes into the picture near the end of the book. She is someone that Derek has to work hard to forgive, but in the end he gains so much from letting that relationship rekindle (and I’m not just talking about her money). I loved his grandma and would totally read a book where she is the main character.
**NOTE: There were a few major continuity errors in the ARC. I am operating under the assumption that these will be fixed at publication and ultimately their presence did not affect my enjoyment of the novel.**
Moments I Loved: Derek visits his grandmother (somewhat unwillingly, but that is a long story) and she is some blue blooded Texas royalty. Every scene with her is fantastic, but when Ashtyn shows up in her workout clothes when Derek’s grandmother is throwing a fancy get together…. hilarious and also happy-making.
WTF Moments: When Ashtyn is made captain of her football team, she becomes a target for her rival team. They cover her yard and driveway with pads and tampons, spelling out “Freemont’s B*tch” in her driveway. She is being harassed generally, because she is captain, but specifically because she is a woman in a man’s sport. The worst part is that her father basically tells her the “prank” is her fault for playing football and offers her no emotional support at all.
Overall: Another great romance from Simone Elkeles. If you loved her Perfect Chemistry series or if you love Katie McGarry, you’ll love Wild Cards.