Review Blog

Nov 11 2013

Wild cards by Simone Elkeles

cover image

Walker Books, 2013. ISBN 9780802737380.
(Age: 16+) Derek is ostensibly a 'bad boy' who has just been expelled from his exclusive Academy (for a fairly harmless prank). The reader soon realises that beneath the 'bad boy' exterior (and his dazzling good looks) is a good boy's heart, all too ready to fall for Ashtyn, his step-mum's sister. In the tradition of all good romance novels, on first meeting, Derek and Ashtyn can't stand the sight of each other. For at least half the novel, they attempt to keep their distance despite the inevitable pull of attraction.
Ashtyn is the only female player on her school's football team, happily dating the star quarterback until he loses the captaincy to her. Whilst Derek is all too willing to step in and 'save'Ashtyn, she remains staunchly independent, insisting that she doesn't need saving and adeptly keeping Derek at bay. She exudes a tough exterior but of course, this is simply to cover her grief and loss: not only did her mum and sister leave home years ago but at much the same time Ashtyn's father seemed to lose interest in her football career. Of course, if Derek is to emerge as a worthy partner for Ashtyn, his bad boy image needs to be expunged and when his backstory is revealed, including the burden of guilt that he carries, most female readers are likely to swoon all over again.
Simone Elkeles allows Derek and Ashtyn to take turns to tell their side of the story, which allows plenty of room for the reader to witness their attraction and mutual misunderstanding. Despite their stunning good looks and amazing football talent, both romantic leads seem credible for the most part, although Derek's penchant for calling Ashtyn 'Sugar Pie' tends to grate and the novel's rousing ending seems a bit too movie-like and rather cliched.
This is a romance novel with plenty of crackling sexual tension. Whether that means it is recommended reading for school library shelves is perhaps another matter. More sexually charged than the Smitten series, this novel seems intended for older readers.
Deborah Marshall

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