{Review} WILD CARDS by Simone Elkeles

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

   GETTING CAUGHT WASN'T PART OF THE PLAN. Pulling off a prank so epic that it'd be talked about for decades was 
(pg. 1, US ARC edition)

You may recall that the buzz around Simone Elkeles new novel WILD CARDS broke right around when I hosted Girls in Sports Week earlier this year. I immediately knew I wanted to work the title into my event, and was really excited when Simone swung by during the event to tease us about her new series!

Ashtyn is a great football player who has just been nominated as Captain by her football team. This annoys her boyfriend Landon, who thought he'd be getting the coveted spot, and launches their relationship into a tailspin. At the same time, Ashtyn's older sister returns home with her stepson Derek, who has been kicked out of boarding school for pulling one prank too many. At first Ashtyn and Derek don't get along, but after Landon betrays Ashtyn and their team, she turns to Derek for help. As the two grow closer the sparks begin to fly, but too much stands in their way...or does it?

I've never personally been a fan of (or really understood) football, but after reading Miranda Kenneally's break-out debut novel CATCHING JORDAN, I became more open to reading about the sport. Fun fact? Simone Elkeles blurbed CATCHING JORDAN! She's always been a fan of girls in sports, and not enough girls in football are thrust into the spotlight in a positive way. Now both of these wonderful ladies have created strong role models for girls to love and look up to!

While I might not always understand football, I love the drive of those who do. It's amazing to see girls kicking butt--and the way society is changing to accept them. Ashtyn is way more accepted than Jordan was, and I applaud the people in her life that have embraced her love of football. At the same time, she still has a lot of naysayers to deal with. Coming far is not the same as being fully embraced. People who don't know Ashtyn well see her as just another girl playing at sports and don't take her seriously. What hurts the most is that her own father doesn't take her seriously. Throw in a whiny boyfriend who throws a fit when his girlfriend makes team captain, and it isn't easy to be Ashtyn. She can, at times, be a dislikable character, but she's dealing with so much and it's hard for her to be trusting and open.

Derek, on the other hand, starts off as a dislikable character, but gets more endearing as readers dig further into what makes him tick. He's running from issues of his own that have shaped his path in life, and he isn't the one-trick pony he's first presented to be. WILD CARDS is absolutely character-driven. Football is secondary to the characters and their relationships with one another. They can be very on-again/off-again, so at times, there was more drama than I like in fiction, but they were both in a weird situation to begin with. You want to know more about secondary characters, too (And you're in luck, because they'll re-appear in future titles of their own!), and it's everyone's interactions with one another that set the novel's course. This worked well for me; there was another novel I read recently that had multiple scenes where every little play in a ball game went on and on in detail, and I got so bored and started skim-reading. WILD CARDS doesn't lose my attention like that. It has a good mix of sports, but not too much that it turns readers off. It could have even had a little more sports action and been fine (Alas it's summer vacation, so there aren't any games, anyway), but it was still well-balanced. It will be interesting to see who gets their own book in the future. Based on my interview with Simone, we know Victor is next, and if you watch the following web series, you might have the same ideas for the shape of his book that I do!

W E B   S E R I E S:

Check out all four episodes of Season 1 now!

This is a prequel to WILD CARDS, so you won't be spoiled by too much reading it now. I will say that there are hints at relationships for future books in this web series that weren't addressed in WILD CARDS. That just makes me want to keep reading!

This is advertised as being a "reality series," but Simone Elkeles and Co. didn't really film a "real" high school football team. These are actors portraying characters from the Wild Cards series, and the characters are on a reality show, so everything is based on the book! Fun, right?

What are your thoughts on the series? Will you watch the second season next year when Book 2 releases?
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

You can tell just by looking at the cover for this one that Simone Elkeles has produced another contemporary high school romance novel destined to be a bestseller. You have the traditional kissing couple, but beneath it, you have an image of a football player on the field.

The gritty texture over the images and in the title font hint that the book isn't going to be a straight-forward, happily ever after novel, but something more realistic, which is what everyone wants when they read Elkeles. 

I think it works! It will be easy to keep this design concise as the series continues, too.

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Simone Elkeles
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2013
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers / Bloomsbury
Received: For Review (BEA Copy)

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. 

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?