Author: Simone Elkeles
Series: Wild Cards, #1
Published: October 1, 2013 (Walker Books for Young Readers)
Rating: Lunch Break Read
Format: Digital ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.I was a bit hesitant going into this one. I love Elkeles from her Perfect Chemistry books, but I was less than impressed with the Leaving Paradise books. So I wasn't sure how I would feel about Wild Cards. Regardless, I knew I needed to read it. I love football books! And this one had a super pretty cover!
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?
I do have a soft spot for female football player books. I blame this on my obsession with one of them while growing up. But they sometimes require a rather large amount of suspension of disbelief. However, having Ashtyn playing kicker instead of quarterback felt more realistic to me. It also emphasized that there is more to a team than the quarterback, something I think is missing in the usual attitude toward high school football, in particular.
I think the most promising thing about Wild Cards - which could be construed as a little spoilery, but it's revealed very quickly - wasn't even mentioned in the summary! It's that Ashtyn and Derek live together, as they are (sort of) step siblings. HELLO, one of my favorite tropes just hiding away without even being mentioned in the synopsis. So much potential for fun and awkward and hot moments. Nothing like secretly admiring your crush over a bowl of mashed potatoes right under the noses of your family. But I digress. There were some great moments that happened because of this situation. Ashtyn and Derek's meeting was hilarious!
Speaking of Derek, I was actually surprised by how much I wound up loving him. I was not sure what I would think of him at the beginning, but he quickly grew on me. He was so great with his little step-brother, Julian! Show me a guy who's great with kids, and my heart is pretty much his.
Unfortunately, Wild Cards did have its share of shortcomings. While it was good, it lacked that magical element that really captivates you. I just didn't really buy into Ashtyn and Derek's relationship. They definitely had their swoony moments, I'll give them that. But for the most part, the development felt forced and unnatural to me, and it was too instalovey. The story had a little too much pointless drama for my taste, and it dragged toward the end.
While Wild Cards didn't become a favorite, it was an enjoyable one-time read. I am curious to see what Elkeles has in store for the rest of the series.
“You need to go for what you want and not hold back. When you figure it out let me know, because I’ll bet my left nut you have a goal but won’t admit to yourself what it is.”
The corner of his mouth twists upward. “You don’t have a left nut, Ashtyn.”
“Yeah, well you’re acting like you don’t have one either.”
Because I'm tryin' to push you away when all I want to do is hold you. I know you say you don't want a hero, but damn I'd like to be that guy who'll save you from spiders and whatever and whoever else hurts you.
Julian, sometimes girls are like junk food. They look good, and they sure taste good… but you know they're not healthy for you and cause cavities so it's better to just leave 'em alone. Got me?