Book Review: After the Game by Abbi Glines

AtG After the Game by Abbi Glines

Published by Simon Pulse on August 22, 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 320 – hardcover, 352 – ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Simon & Schuster

Previous Books in Series: Until Friday Night, Under the Lights

PURCHASE LINKS

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Blurb:

Two years ago, Riley Young fled from Lawton, Alabama. After accusing the oldest Lawton son, Rhett, of rape, everyone called her a liar and she had no option but to leave. Now she’s back, but she’s not at Lawton High finishing up her senior year. She’s at home raising the little girl that no one believed was Rhett’s.

Rhett is off at college living the life he was afraid he’d lose with Riley’s accusation, so Riley agrees to move back to Lawton so she and her parents could take care of her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. But the town still hasn’t forgotten their hate for her, and she hasn’t forgotten the way they turned on her when she needed them most.

When town golden boy Brady Higgens finds Riley and her daughter, Bryony, stranded on the side of the road in a storm, he pulls over and gives them a ride. Not because he cares about Riley, of course, but because of the kid.

But after the simple car ride, he begins to question everything he thought he knew. Could Brady believe Riley and risk losing everything?


Review:

After Under the Lights, I really really hoped that this book would be better & that my mixed feelings about UtL were just a fluke. I was relieved when — fortunately — I loved this book just as much as the first one. Of course, Until Friday Night will always remain my favorite of the series, but After the Game comes in at a close second!

All the books in this series can be read as standalones, but personally, I think you should read the first two before reading this one. This book is pretty connected to the first 2 books, and for someone who hasn’t read them, that could be confusing. In addition to that, Book 2 sets the stage for this book, so you really don’t want to miss that.

I’ll start off by saying just how much I adored Riley in this book. I’ve always wanted to read more about her; now I’ve finally got the chance to get to know her in this book! I really like how this book doesn’t shy away from the truth. Riley’s just like, “Yeah, he raped me, and I don’t care whether you believe me or not.” She didn’t give a shit about what the rest of the town thought and I loved that.

“Just because others hadn’t accepted me hadn’t made me less of a person.”

I also enjoyed catching up with the other characters, West & Maggie… Gunner & Willa… All their stories are interconnected so seeing everyone interact made me so happy, especially Riley, Maggie, and Willa. Also, can we just take a moment to talk about the real star of this book? Bryony was so adorable! I just wanted to reach out and squeeze her. She was a ray of sunshine amidst all the negativity. Somebody please give her all the cookies!

This book was very family-centered, even more so than the previous books. Riley always makes sure she puts Bryony’s needs first, and Riley herself has such an excellent support system in her family. The book didn’t focus on the rape itself so much as the aftermath. You’d think that I’d be more emotional if Riley was unhappy and depressed, but what got to me was how happy and satisfied she was to have Bryony in her life. It was honestly the sweetest thing ever.

It was also really nice getting a more in depth view of Brady’s character. I’ve always thought of him as one-dimensional and as that “nice guy”. I’m glad this book delved deeper into his character. Also, like Riley, family plays a major role in Brady’s POV. I won’t say more because that would be considered a spoiler; you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Despite the above, there were a few things that kind of weighed the book down, the first being the pacing. I expected Riley and Brady’s “friendship” to last a little while longer before they started locking lips, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t want a slow burn or anything, but a lil angst sure din’t hurt nobody… which leads me to my next point. This book, overall, was definitely less angsty than the first two. There were a few unexpected turns of events, but not many and they were far too predictable & anticlimactic. Maybe this book was more about wrapping everything up, rather than starting new drama.

Another thing worth mentioning is how Rhett got off practically scot free. I feel like he was forgiven at the end merely as a means to tie off any loose ends. That doesn’t sit well with me. What he did was a crime, so why is no one fighting it? I just find it so sad because it reflects how the world views rape and its victims.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that reading this book was bittersweet. It was like the end of an era. Our characters are all grown up! I can’t wait to see who the next book centers on. My guess is either Asa, Ryker, or Nash. Either way, I’m so pumped to read whatever comes next and follow new (and hopefully old) characters on new journeys!

Many thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views & opinions above.

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Rating: 4 fish!

4 fish

 

 

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Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

when dimple met rishi When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Published by Simon Pulse on May 30, 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 380 – hardcover, 384 – paperback, 320 – ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Simon & Schuster

PURCHASE LINKS

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Blurb:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

This. This was the perfect cute summer romance read. Filled with dynamic characters and a very engaging plot, this book was an absolute delight to devour! I’ve been looking forward to this book for ages, and it did not disappoint at all!! I don’t know how many times I’ll be saying this in my review, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

The story is told through the alternating POVs of Dimple and Rishi. The alternating POVs allowed us to view scenes from Rishi’s cheerful, optimistic perspective and from Dimple’s cautious, realistic perspective. It’s also written in 3rd perspective – which actually didn’t detract much from the story being told!

Rishi and Dimple’s interactions were always something to behold. I reallyy loved them. Their first meeting was hilarious, and the consequent ones were equally as entertaining to read. They were such dimensional characters, and their romance was so cute! I think Dimple is an amazing heroine – she’s smart, cautious and levelheaded. She is definitely her own person. Rishi is so swoon-worthy, too! He’s adorkable and goofy and just perfect! The yang to Dimple’s yin. (Or was it the other way around? Don’t attack me.)

Rishi and Dimple’s dynamic is made even better when you throw the “arranged marriage” aspect into the mix. Typically, books pertaining to arranged marriage are always negative and depressing as hell, with the parents being depicted as evil dictators. However, in this book, that was not the case at all. Rishi and Dimple’s parents were (relatively) chill about it. They weren’t all “Get married or die!!”; they were more like “Here, we arranged a quite opportune marriage for you. You don’t have to do it, but it’d be cool if you did.” They obviously wanted what’s best for their children and didn’t try to force anything they didn’t want on them.

In addition to all of the above, the cultural aspect of the book was soo perfect! The way it was presented made me curious to know so much more! The clothes, the food, the homage to Bollywood movies… everything! Both Indian and non-Indian readers alike are sure to appreciate this.

I do admit, there were times when the story felt a little too predictable, especially towards the end when I felt like I was reading a mix of contemporary romance novels. But that definitely isn’t enough to keep me from reading.

Overall, this book had all the feels! This was a light, fun, engaging read with constant humor and swoon-worthy romance. The characters were realistic and dimensional, and the diversity was on point. The writing flowed really well with the story, and the alternating POVs offered fresh insight into the characters’ minds. I really recommend this book if you need a quick, unique read to devour and feast on!

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Rating: 4 fish

4 fish

Book Review: The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

alchemists of loomThe Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

Published by Keymaster Press on January 10, 2017

Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk

Pages: 380 – hardcover & ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Keymaster Press

BUY LINKS

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Blurb:

Her vengeance. His vision.

Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.

Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.

When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.

He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.


Review:

*Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.*

Wow. It’s a known fact that Elise Kova’s Air Awakens series is one of my all-time favorite books. So you’d understand why I had doubts about going into a whole new world (without Vhalla & Aldrik!) Fortunately, these doubts were unfounded. This was an extremely captivating book, and it was nothing like Air Awakens! I was blown away by the complexity of the world & characters. The imagination and creativity needed must’ve been off the charts! Round of applause to Elise!

When I first started reading, I may have struggled a bit to get past the first 10-20% of the book. This was probably because it took a while to familiarize myself with the world & its characters. Seriously, when I say the world was complex, I mean it. It’s overwhelming to a reader who usually sticks to YA Fantasy. This is high fantasy. However, when I got past the beginning & really started to connect to the characters, I was hooked. The book is told in the alternating POVs of Arianna, Cvareh, and Florence (and occasionally, Leona).

Don’t expect the characters in this book to be the warm, heroic type, because they certainly aren’t. They all come from different backgrounds and have their own agendas. Everyone is cutthroat as hell. I really grew to love everyone, though. Especially Arianna. The way Arianna’s character is written at the beginning makes it hard for the reader to really connect with or even like her. However, as the story unfolds, we get glimpses into her past which really helps the reader put together a clearer picture of Ari. In a way, she reminded me of Celaena from ToG and Arya Stark from GoT.

My favorite thing about this book is the slow burn relationship of Ari and Cvareh. I’m a sucker for the enemies-to-reluctant-friends-to-lovers(¿) trope. I loved how hot and cold Ari’s attitude was toward Cvareh at times and I absolutely loved how Cvareh wasn’t having any of Ari’s shit. Their relationship dynamic was really intense & complicated. There are obviously still quite a few secrets between them; I’m excited to see where they’re headed in the next book! They’re no Vhalla and Aldrik, but I still absolutely adored them.

Of course, Ari & Cvareh’s isn’t the only amazing relationship. The dynamic between Cvareh, Florence, and Ari was phenomenal; I loved reading their interactions! They all have such different personalities that really shine through on the page. Such well-rounded, dimensional characters!

This book wouldn’t be what it is without the extraordinary plot and worldbuilding. The wonderfully set up atmosphere of the story, combined with the extremely detailed world, made for a kickass story. Elise really outdid herself with the worldbuilding in this one. The writing also contributed to the excellent worldbuilding. It really helped further immerse the reader into the story. It was excellent, as per usual.

In conclusion, if you’re a fantasy or steampunk fan, then The Alchemists of Loom is sure to delight you. This is a world where the magical and the mechanical collide. Although it took me a while to acclimate to it, the world is wonderfully built and the atmosphere is wonderfully set up. The characters are very dimensional, with distinct personalities that really shine through on the page. Also, their relationship dynamics were very intriguing to read about. The Alchemists of Loom has it all — a highly intelligent, unapologetic protagonist, an action-filled plot, an elaborate world, and superb writing. I’m so glad Elise Kova blessed us with this!

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Rating: 4 fish!

4 fish

 

Book Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Stealing Snow by Danielle PaigeImage result for stealing snow

Published by Bloomsbury Childrens on September 20, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

Pages: 384– hardcover, paperback

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Bloomsbury UK

BUY LINKS

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Blurb: 

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

I’ve been seeing so many mixed reviews about this, and the hype’s pretty big, too. It’s safe to say that my encounter this book has gone really well! The premise of the book captured my attention from the get-go; I love fairy tale retellings, and I haven’t seen many Snow Queen ones. Danielle Paige manages to weave the fairy tale retelling into the plot wonderfully, resulting in a very magical story. I definitely gobbled up the pages! This book actually helped me stave off an impending reading slump after Empire of Storms. I needed a fantasy, but not a heavy one, and this magical fairy tale retelling was just it!

When I first started reading, I admit I was a bit thrown off by the writing. I expected beautiful imagery & words to match the beautiful cover, but the writing was subpar, to say the least?¿ It confused me at times, but I finally got used to it.

My favorite thing about the book is the protagonist, Snow. She’s a very refreshing protagonist. Most books with Princess MC’s make them selfless and self-sacrificing, which is great, but not realistic. Snow, on the other hand, is selfish, and doesn’t want to be who she is, because honestly, who would want to discover that they are a legendary princess with a psychotic, ruthless father who wants to have utter control of the country? Not Snow, that’s for sure.

The plot of the story is very fast-paced, which actually worked really well. We’re introduced to the world in very small snippets. The world building isn’t a gradual, steady incline, it’s a jigsaw puzzle slowly being pieced together.Most people might think this is messy, but it actually worked really well. This isn’t a regular fantasy story, you have to piece together the world yourself, so keep that in mind while reading. There’s also an aura of mystery around the story. We’re introduced to many characters, and most of the time, it’s a question of “Who can I trust?” It’s very intriguing.

What I see most people being annoyed about is the love square. I do agree that the idea of Snow falling for a guy over the span of a few days is laughable, but that didn’t stop me from feeling all the feels! I really like *the love interests*, and I hope they’re developed more in the next book.

Overall, this book has a very pacy plot with just the right amount of intrigue & mystery. The romance was a bit unnecessary, but enjoyable. Snow is a great, kickass protagonist and the secondary characters are all memorable.This book definitely has it all: heists! magic! potions! beasts! thievery!! I cannot wait for the sequel!

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Rating: 4 fish

4 fish

Book Review: ReMade by Matthew Cody, Kiersten White, E.C. Myers… & more!

So, as you may have already gathered, this review is a bit different from any of my other ones. I was given the opportunity to review a unique YA serial called ReMade. Team-written by some of today’s most popular YA authors, ReMade is brought to you by Matthew Cody (Super), Andrea Phillips (Revision), Kiersten White (And I Darken), Gwenda Bond (Girl on a Wire), Carrie Harris (Bad Taste in Boys), and E. C. Myers (The Silence of Six). ReMade is Serial Box’s first YA serial; it’s like a TV show, with episodes being released every week building up to the season finale. Season One will unfold across 15 episodes beginning September 14th , with a new installment dropping every Wednesday until the season finale on December 21st.


Blurb:

You live. You love. You die. Now RUN. ReMade.

Every minute, 108 people die.
On October 14th, 2016, from 9:31-9:32 p.m. EDT, 23 of those deaths will be teenagers.
Now they are humanity’s last hope for survival.

Awakened in a post-apocalyptic world and hunted by mechanical horrors, these teens search for answers amidst the ruins of civilization. Fate, love, and loyalty face off in this adrenaline -pumping YA adventure.

I received ARCs of the first 3 episodes, so below, I will be giving my thoughts on each episode as I read it followed by my overall review at the end. Here we go!


remade-1 ReMade [Season 1 Episode 1]: Shadows and Dreams

Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts: I think the first episode of ReMade really started out with a bang. It managed to grab my attention from the beginning ’till the very end. I was so curious to find out what’s going on, so A+ for the intrigue!This sure is a great start to the rest of the season! Also, I can totally picture the characters and imagine the descriptions realllly well. The succinct writing style helped with that. I can totally picture this as an actual TV show!

 

 



remade-2ReMade [Season 1 Episode 2]: Hungry

Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts: Just finished another episode of ReMade and it was just as engaging as the first! We’re introduced to another POV character, May, and get to know her and her backstory better. This just made me even more excited to continue on with the series. There are soo many possible explanations and theories about what’s going on! The story’s concept is very interesting. So far, this is actually slightly reminiscent of The 100, which BTW is my fave TV show ever! Y’know, a bunch of teenagers dropping down from space with no idea why, and trying to survive in the wilderness by themselves. Also, since this is probably going to be told from the POVs of many narrators, I’m really excited to learn more about the other teenagers!


remade-3ReMade [Season 1 Episode 3]: Home, Perilous Home

Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts: So, this episode is from yet another author and yet another narrator, and boy do I love her! I think Nevaeh is my favorite character so far! I love the inclusion of diverse characters and how all the POV characters we got so far are extremely relatable! I’m still really curious to know what the hell happened, but unfortunately I only have ARCs for the first 3 episodes, haha.

 


Review:

Everything about this digital serial is interesting. The fact that it’s basically a TV show in book format with new “episodes” being released every week? Uh, sign me right up! Each episode takes about 30-40 minutes to read, just like an actual TV show. At first, I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to get into the story in such a short amount of pages, but by the time I started reading, all my worries were forgotten!

The story starts out with a very intriguing premise. A bunch of teenagers wake up in an abandoned post-apocalyptic civilization, with no idea how they got there. What they all have in common? They’re all pretty sure they died in their “past life”. Hunted by metal spider creature thingies, they must figure out a way to survive in this world and find out what the hell is going on.

Now, this may sound like a typical YA post-apocalyptic/dystopian story, but it didn’t feel like it to me. It was refreshing, and not once did it feel like a cliché. Each episode introduces us to a new character, while at the same time furthering the plot and world-building. I genuinely enjoyed reading this! Since each book is so short, there’s a lot of pressure to make it engaging and interesting, and it definitely did not fail in that. My attention was captured in the pilot from the very beginning!

The pacing of the story is also great; it matches the story’s theme and tone. From what I’ve read so far, there’s a lot of mystery in the tone, which really pulls you in to keep reading in order to find out what’s going on. The writing’s vivid, but succinct, enabling you to easily picture what’s happening.

In short, I think the episodic nature of this serial definitely works for me. The premise is compelling, and the plot so far sets a high bar for the remaining episodes. The writing quality is superb, which makes the story even easier to get into. Each POV character we are introduced to has a distinct voice, making them very relatable. I would buy a subscription to the series, for sure!

Jump into this digital serial, available in both text and audio, and find out what the future of fiction holds.

You can purchase a subscription to the series, and have each episode downloaded automatically, or buy each episode individually. Episodes are available on the Serial Box App, at www.serialbox.com/remade, or wherever ebooks are sold.

Rating: 4 fish!

4 fish

 

 

Book Review: One by Sarah Crossan

one One by Sarah Crossan

Published by Greenwillow Books on September 15, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 448 – hardcover & paperback, 400 – ebook

Format Read: paperback

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Bloomsbury UK

BUY LINKS

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Blurb:

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?


Review:

So, I read this book a while ago and wanted to write this review then, but unfortunately, I never had the chance to get around to it. So when I received a complimentary copy from Bloomsbury Publishing, it was practically fate! I reread the book again and wrote this review and it’s just as amazing as the last time I read it.

From the moment I heard about the idea of One, I knew I had to read it. I’ve always been so intrigued about the psychological aspect of being conjoined twins and the emotions that come with it, which this book managed to portray VERY well. You have no idea how many emotions I went through as I read this book.

Added bonus: it’s written in free verse! Usually, I find that books written in verse lack the ability to make me connect with the characters or the plot or the story in general. However, One managed to pull that off flawlessly! The writing style really made the pages go by. One sitting is all it took to devour this story.

This book is told from the POV of Grace, not Tippi. I didn’t mind that it wasn’t in dual POV because we still get to see both sides of the coin. Grace is the quiet, shy one and Tippi is the stubborn, outgoing one. They’re so different, yet they’re so in sync with each other — it’s beautiful! Sarah Crossan did a phenomenal job of providing insight into their lives; it’s obvious a lot of meticulous research went into this.

The story explores a variety of different problems. One example is the daily struggle of being conjoined twins and the difficulty they face in fitting in with others. Another example is Grace and Tippi’s dysfunctional family – they aren’t the only ones with problems – and their struggle to manage the medical bills. I also found many underlying themes such as love, friendship, and family.

Also, can we talk about THAT ENDING. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but boy did I cry my eyes out. WHY IS LIFE SO CRUEL *sob*

So, in short, One is a very thought-provoking and insightful read into the lives of two girls bound together. The free verse writing style and the topic of the book itself makes for a very unique read. Grace & Tippi were such complex, flawed characters and their dynamic with their family and friends was just so well-written. The way this book addressed everything was extraordinary and I just- *hugs book*.

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Rating: 4 fish

4 fish

Book Review: Winning by Lara Deloza

winning  Winning by Lara Deloza

Published by HarperTeen on June 28, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 336 – paperback, 304 – ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 4 stars

Source: HarperCollins

BUY LINKS

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Blurb:

Whoever said being nice would get you to the top?

Certainly not Alexandra Miles. She isn’t nice, but she’s more than skilled at playing the part. She floats through the halls of Spencer High, effortlessly orchestrating the actions of everyone around her, making people bend to her whim without even noticing they’re doing it. She is the queen of Spencer High—and it’s time to make it official.

Alexandra has a goal, you see—Homecoming Queen. Her ambitions are far grander than her small town will allow, but homecoming is just the first step to achieving total domination. So when peppy, popular Erin Hewett moves to town and seems to have a real shot at the crown, Alexandra has to take action.

With the help of her trusted friend Sam, she devises her most devious plot yet. She’ll introduce an unexpected third competitor in the mix, one whose meteoric rise—and devastating fall—will destroy Erin’s chances once and for all. Alexandra can run a scheme like this in her sleep. What could possibly go wrong?


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is in no way impacted my views & opinions below.

I’ll start off by saying this: If you’re looking for a cute contemporary read about a nice heroine and her charming love interest, and a happy ending for both of them, then this book – my friend – is not for you. Winning will trample over all your hopes and dreams, then ruthlessly crush them into nothing. This book has honestly left me speechless; I can’t even form the words to appropriately articulate my feelings!

*deep breath* Okay, yeah, I’m fine now.

So, our protagonist is Alexandra, and boy is she ruthless and manipulative. Alexandra has a plan: win Homecoming Queen, become Miss Indiana, and then Miss America. Simple & breezy… or is it? From the very beginning of the book, Alexandra is established as the anti-hero who will trample over anyone and anything to get what she wants. We see her resort to manipulation and concocting some really, really messed up schemes. She’s a power-hungry bitch, to say the least.

Despite all that, her POV is framed in such a way that makes the reader actually want her to
succeed. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself defending her in my head. Alexandra’s also been affected by a few outside influences that made her into who she is, like her father’s death and her mother’s subsequent neglect of her. This served to help the reader empathize and relate to her. There’s also the fact that, from the exterior, Alexandra’s not that bad. She’s genuinely a good person, even defending her friend’s sexual orientation when she was being attacked for it.

Winning blurs the lines between the good guys and the bad guys. There’s a kind of moral ambiguity there, because everyone’s pitted against each other. The mean girl. The best friend. The new girl. The wimp. The lackey. They’ve all done cruel things to take down each other. No one is who you think they are. Good vs. bad is clearly a conundrum that this book wrestles with, and it does so excellently.

I’ve seen people describe this as Pretty Little Liars meets Mean Girls, which is a pretty accurate description. There’s a lot of devious plotting and cutthroat competition; everybody wants something. Alexandra wants to be Homecoming Queen and get out of this town, Sam wants Alexandra’s love, Ivy wants to not be an outcast, Sloane wants to take Alexandra down, and Erin just wants to be everyone’s friend.

There’s a lot of backstabbing, sure, but there are light moments, too. The f/f subplot was really adorable, and I loved how even though everyone – including her ‘best friend’ – tried to use Sam’s sexuality against her, she still managed to emerge victorious AND she got the girl. There are tons of witty one-liners, humorous dialogues, and most importantly, girl power!

In short, Winning is a book that is sure to surprise you, taking you on a whirlwind path of devious schemes & cunning plots. Bonus points for anti-hero protagonist, multiple POVs, and f/f subplot! I’d definitely say that there are still loose ends to be resolved; I want to know what happens next, but a sequel? Not so much. Leaving the book as it is would be so much better – it sends a realistic message that not every ending has to be perfectly wrapped up and tied in a bow. If you’re a fan of unconventional contemporaries with anti-hero protagonists, then this is definitely for you!

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Rating: 4 fish

4 fish