The biggest strength of this book is the theme: a life without enjoyment is a hollow endeavor. I love this message in a book for YA’s, and I think that it will hit home with many readers. The rest of the book is pretty much what fans of Miranda Kennelly are expecting. I mean that in a good way. If you haven’t read any of Kennelly’s books but you are a fan of Abbi Glines, I think you will enjoy these because it has the same feel as the early books in her Sea Breeze series.
There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
The narrator, Taylor, is easy to connect with and her love interest is crush-worthy. The romantic relationship is believable, in part because there is some history between these two characters that began long before the start of the story. This past is clearly laid out, so readers can relax and enjoy watching it come to fruition without having to backtrack and read an earlier book in the series. That being said, a few beloved characters from Hundred Oaks make cameos, so if you have read the series, you will get a chance to catch up with a few of your favorites.
Another thumbs up goes to the family and friendship angles that this book explores. They allow characters to actually work through issues in a positive way. Don’t get me wrong, there is still all the drama readers want, but the resolutions are satisfying and heartening.
I had never read any books by this author until last year, and when I put a copy of Jesse’s Girl in my classroom library, my high school girls demanded more instantly. So far, Breathe, Annie, Breathe is their favorite, and I don’t think this book will usurp its standing, but I’m certain they will enjoy Defending Taylor. It’s a hard call to put this one on my shelves, though. Interest and engagement are high for this series, but it feels like this particular book is crossing out of YA and into New Adult territory. Fans won’t mind, but their parents might object to some of the sensuality. I would say this one is really for more mature high school and college readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.