1 star · 2013 · contemporary · new adult

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Title: Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Author: Simone Elkeles (website | twitter)
Pub. Date: September 24, 2013
Source: ARC via Around the World ARC Tours
Summary: 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?
Genre: NA, Contemporary

Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern boy Derek has found himself in the headmaster’s office after a prank-gone-wrong. The prestigious school have given him numerous chances and this is the last straw. After fessing up and taking all of the blame, Derek’s told he has 48 hours to gather his things and leave. With his dad stationed overseas and a spacey 25-year old stepmother, Derek isn’t exactly looking forward to heading home. Things go from bad to worse when Brandi announces she’s pregnant and until Derek’s father returns, they’ll all be heading to Chicago to move in with Brandi’s estranged family.

As the only girl on the high school football team, Ashtyn has developed a tough skin. She had to earn the respect of the guys and now she’s considered one of them. Her boyfriend is the star Quarterback and it’s all but guaranteed he’ll be elected Captain come their senior year. Ashtyn’s sights are set a little further in the future: she’s aiming for a football scholarship and the chance to play on a college team.

While things have never looked better on the field, Ashtyn’s home life has seriously declined. Her mother abandoned the family years ago, her sister vanished as well, and her dad just doesn’t seem to care anymore. Now her sister has returned, bun in the over, and with her son and stepson in tow. They simply arrive at the door and announce they’re moving in.

Wild Cards had two things going for it: its BLINDINGLY fast pace and football. The football plot especially interested me, even moreso that it was a girl who played. YES PLEASE! Sadly, that’s where the good ends. This is a book that suffers from an extreme case of telling rather than showing. We’re told Derek is a bad boy, we’re told Ashtyn is some super awesome fantastic football player/tough chick. I never got a feel for just who these characters really were and their relationship was downright confusing.

It seems all Derek does is paint the shed and cut the grass. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if he helped a little old lady cross the street or rescue a kitten in a tree. Yep. Real troublemaker there. As far as Ashtyn’s football prowess goes, she never actually plays. Or, sure, she practices, but that’s it. There aren’t any games – the novel takes places during summer vacation – so that angle was a complete letdown. At one point Ashtyn goes to a week-long football clinic where only the best high school players from around the country go, but even there we only read about a handful of drills (of course each one is sabotaged by boys who aren’t interested in having a girl play).

I read a lot of YA and am getting into New Adult. I know how it goes and I’ve come to expect quick romances if not flat out instalove. What baffled me about Wild Cards is that, while the character are in love (in a weird quasi-incestuous way – she’s his stepmother’s sister after all), they refused to voice their feelings for nearly the entire book and they aren’t in a relationship at all. The dual narrative allows the reader to know exactly how Ashtyn and Derek feel and it’s very love/hate. Ashtyn thinks Derek’s hot. Derek thinks Ashtyn has a great body. Ashtyn wants Derek to hold her. Derek wants Ashtyn period. Ashtyn hates how Derek is flirting with her friends and thinks he’s a jerk. Derek hates how guys look at Ashtyn. This went on and on the entire book and their only interactions were arguments. Somehow this was supposed to be romantic? I just couldn’t get into it.

The ending really took the cake though. After all the talk of Ashtyn being an amazing football player – and not seeing any proof – it turns out that Derek is the one who is really the star. Prior to the death of his mother he took his team all the way to the state championship and had a really promising career ahead of him. In the end it was about Derek‘s phenomenal skills rather than Ashtyn’s.

Wild Cards was such a disappointment. I went in fully prepared to love every moment, but nothing worked for me. The characters were flat, the football plot just wasn’t there, and the romance was borderline aggravating. This is the first in a series, but I’m tapping out of this one. I have no interest in seeing what’s in store for these characters. If it wasn’t for the easy-to-read pace, I doubt I would have finished.


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