Title: Being Sloane Jacobs
Author: Lauren Morrill
Pub. Date: January 7, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Delacorte!)
Summary: Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.
Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.
When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.
Genre: YA, Contemporary
With the success of her debut novel Meant to Be last year, expectations and excitement for Lauren Morrill’s follow up ran high. The buzz was so great even I began to join in – admittedly I have yet to read Meant to Be, though that gorgeous cover stares at me every day at work! When I received a copy of Being Sloane Jacobs, I couldn’t wait to sit down with it and discover the author everyone had been talking about. Even more intriguing was the premise: two girls with the same name switch places for the summer. Very Parent Trap-esque with the added bonus of sports (hockey and figure skating)! Being Sloane Jacobs practically promised a fun, entertaining read, and in the end, delivered just that – though not without a few bumps along the way.
On the outside, Sloane Emily Jacobs appears to have the perfect life with the perfect family. Underneath the white smiles and posed photo ops however lies a life that is anything but perfect. After walking in on her senator father with his secretary, Sloane jumps at the chance to run away to a prestigious skating camp although she’s not yet ready to return to the world of figure skating.
Sloane Devon Jacobs watched her mother give in to alcoholism until her father finally forced her mother into rehab. Since then Sloane has thrown herself into hockey – not just to take her mind off her home life, but to hopefully score a scholarship, the only way Sloane could ever possibly attend college. After a violent outburst guarantees a benching for the start of the next season, Sloane’s coach makes a few calls and lands Sloane a spot at a hockey camp.
After a luggage mix-up the two Sloanes meet. While the two girls don’t have much in common (apart from a rather uncommon name) they’re both running away from their problems and what better way to do that than by pretending to be someone else? Sloane Emily agrees to spend her summer getting down and dirty with hockey players while Sloane Devon will spend hers bedazzled and sequined.
I loved the premise for Being Sloane Jacobs and it definitely was fun, but it fell a bit flat. Normally I’m all about dual narratives – some of my favorite books feature multiple narrators! In this novel, however, I had such a hard time keeping track of the girls and more than once had to refer back to the book’s summary to remember who was who. Apart from a few details – Sloane Emily is the rich one and Sloane Devon’s wardrobe consists of dirty and baggy clothes – there was nothing unique or defining about either girl. Much like the novel itself, I could have easily swapped the girls and it would have had little impact (if any!) on the story. I would have loved to see more depth to these girls. The potential was certainly there for some excellent character exploration! Whether it was a further look into the scandal that rocked Sloane Emily’s family or more insight into Sloane Devon’s mother and her battle with alcoholism, I feel Being Sloane Jacobs had so much to work with and definitely missed the opportunity.
Another issue I had was with how quickly the girls picked up the other’s sport. Yes, both are skating-related, but I just can’t see a hockey player transform into a figure skater in a month. Sloane Devon was doing leaps and spins with ease and Sloane Emily had no trouble scoring goals. I had been under the impression that these girls had worked for years at their sport to reach the level they were at, but apparently a newcomer can train for a week or two and be at a competition level. That aspect didn’t sit well with me.
Secondary characters brought little to the table. There were the token Mean Girls, the Gay Figure Skater, and of course the love interests. Sloane Devon (pretending to be Sloane Emily) rekindles a childhood friendship while Sloane Emily (going by Sloane Devon) turns a playboy into a one girl kind of guy. When the girls’ identities are revealed I rejoiced in the boys’ reactions. Naturally they feel hurt and betrayed – and a bit confused. Unfortunately, they both got over their anger far too quickly for my liking. Then again, each had only had a handful of interactions with the girl they were with.
Despite my issues with many aspects of Being Sloane Jacobs, I enjoyed it. Although its on the better side of 300 pages (closer to 400!) it felt half that length and I breezed right through it. Morrill’s research was definitely evident and I loved the look into these sports (I’m all for more sports in YA). Any reader looking for a fun story to get lost in for an afternoon should look no further than Being Sloane Jacobs. While it glosses over deeper themes – and answers – I can see this book becoming a favorite of many and I certainly look forward to going back and reading Morrill’s debut.