Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Jordan Elliot and Mackenzie West met in the summer before freshman year. They seemed to hit it off and had the beginning of a genuine friendship–not to mention an epic crush on Jordan’s part–but it all fell apart when school began.

Mack made the varsity volleyball team and pretty much became popular overnight, hosting parent-free parties and being seen with all the right people. Including Jordan’s equally popular, almost-perfect, older brother, Casey, about whom Jordan’s always had an inferiority complex. Jordan was abruptly cast aside, disparaged for being a hanger-on, surely because she’s a heavy, quirky lesbian who couldn’t match Mack, who’s lithe, blonde, and fit. Mack’s mother, for whom perfection is a state of being, didn’t much care for Jordan’s shabby-chic aesthetic, either. It was totally heartbreaking for Jordan to lose a good friend, and give up on a first crush, within days of high school beginning.

Fast-forward to junior year. Mack’s named the varsity volleyball captain, despite senior girls vying for the spot. And Jordan’s got an editor position on the school newspaper, but she’s assigned the volleyball column, much to her chagrin. In order to prove herself capable of editorial work, she’ll have to attend games and write favorably about the team, including a feature on Mack. So, Jordan’s doubly frustrated, but she’s not going to squander this opportunity. Her newspaper advisor claims Jordan’s the best writer on the staff. With the volleyball team expected to do well, her columns will have big readership, which will build her college-bound portfolio.

In order to get stories for the paper, Jordan digs in deep, interviewing players and learning all about the team. Soon, she’s experiencing the first friendly overtures from Mack in three years. The other volleyball girls seem to want Jordan around to write good stories about them, too. Instead of being an interloper, Jordan’s feeling accepted, embraced, by the team–and her own friends enjoy the reflected caché of being invited to Mack’s cool-kid parties where they connect with other people. Jordan’s mystified by all the attention, especially from Brie, a senior with a long-standing crush on Jordan’s brother Casey–and who’s hoping Jordan will talk him into attending a tournament.

It’s not long before Jordan’s noticing something bigger at work, as the connection that Mack had severed years ago begins to grow back between them. Mack is clearly the heart of the team, and she’s loved by many, but it doesn’t seem like she has a lot of dear friends. Ones she can talk to about her fears, or dreams. Mack’s oversharing creates intimacy between them, and Jordan’s afraid to develop feelings again, only to be abandoned and humiliated. Again. Jordan can’t trust her instincts when it comes to Mack, because she’s too vulnerable–falling hard for a girl who might not like her back is a huge mistake, especially because of all their bad history.

This is an interesting enemies-to-girlfriends, YA romance that doesn’t feature the usual romantic elements. Jordan wants to be professional and aloof, making sure she’s setting up her best-possible future, but she’s also got a scarred heart and deep inferiority complex, fueled by issues surrounding her weight. Jordan’s low self-esteem makes her a target for manipulation, but she’s not sure who’s trying to sway her: Mack or Brie. Or, is she just letting her own issues cloud her judgment? Unfortunately, Jordan believes the worst, at exactly the worst time, leading to writing a feature that calls into question her journalistic integrity and harms Mack in the process. Though her intentions were not revenge motivated, Jordan’s pent-up resentment needed a better, less public, outlet.

As a reader, I really liked the discussion and focus on personal responsibility, and judicious use of power. I thought turning the tables from victim to victimizer was thought-provoking and really allowed the reader to examine a worst-case scenario of potential bullying behavior, and how that would affect a person’s situation–in school, in their relationships, and in positions of power. The difference between public versus private personas was also a big part of this narrative, and how one can’t always trust what they think they know based on social media, or even in-person interactions. I think that nuance in interpersonal relationships is a topic that is not often explored with any depth, for teens. Even skeptics like Jordan can be naive to the intentions of those around them, and Jordan’s misadventures certainly opened ideas.

She does solve her problems, in the end, making amends to Mack, who’s also makes amends for her previous bad behavior. There’s a lot to celebrate in this book, including Jordan and Mack finding their voices to become stronger females. They both had been hiding in the shadow of other people’s expectations–or what they perceived those expectations to be–and they made mistakes by operating within those narrow boundaries. It was good to watch them take responsibility, and find happiness that was entirely deserved. I really liked the book, and would definitely recommend it to readers who like YA sports-related romances.