Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Book Seven of the Hundred Oaks series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
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?
What I Liked:
Hmm. I'm not entirely sure why this book didn't all work for me, but it didn't. Maybe I was expecting so much more from Kenneally - this is my first book of hers that I've read, and I had crazy high expectations. I've seen so many blogging peers rave about her books, so I was hoping to be able to do the same. Overall I enjoyed this book, but I don't think I can give it more than 3.5 stars.
Taylor was kicked out of her fancy private school for having Adderall in her possession - but the pills weren't hers. They were her boyfriend's pills (he's now an ex), but she covered for him because he is a poor scholarship kid who needs a clean sheet, and she's a senator's daughter with a perfect record and model student grades/participation. But St. Andrew's kicks her out, and she is now attending Hundred Oaks. She tries to fit in, but even soccer is not the same. The team blindly follows the captain, Nicole, who goes out of her way to make Taylor miserable. The only person that Taylor connects with is Ezra, her older brother's best friend, a boy whom Taylor used to be in love with, when they were younger. But involvement with a boy isn't what Taylor needs right now - or is it?
Kenneally captures teens really well, in my opinion. Taylor is an overachiever, with perfect grades, a ton of participation in extracurricular activities, a star on the soccer team. She puts a lot of pressure on herself, to graduate from high school, study business in Yale, and join the family firm when she graduates. I could relate to Taylor on academic levels - I'm not stranger to that kind of pressure, though I'm not a rich senator's daughter. Not all of us can hide under daddy's name, and not all of us have parents who can call in favors at universities, and such. Taylor has it made, has a ton of privileges, and she wastes it.
In the next section of my review, you'll see me complain about Taylor's decisions, but I see why Kenneally chose this story. Taylor must learn how to do things without her father's name influencing things. Her father won't put in a good word with Yale (his alma mater) for her. She's no longer at St. Andrew's, so she has to work even harder at a public, easier school, to keep up the high standards she was upholding at St. Andrews. Taylor has to grow up a lot, and do things more on her own. I liked seeing this, because she needed the dose of reality.
I really liked Ezra. He comes from a similar background as Taylor - rich parents, privilege, great schooling. He is a freshman at Cornell, but he's currently back in town, taking a leave of absence from Cornell. He works at a construction company and has his own apartment, much to his parents' disgust. Ezra is taking charge of his life and figuring out what he wants - which isn't an academic life at Cornell, not at the moment. I like how mature Ezra seems, especially compared to Taylor (at first). Ezra is sweet and considerate.
There is history between Taylor and Ezra. He's her brother's best friend. She's loved him for forever, and we find out that he has loved HER for forever. He missed her Sweet Sixteen party, and Taylor never finds out why for years (until later in this story), so that's why they stopped talking. It was awkward at first, watching these two reconnect. But then they become friends again, and then more.
Cute romance! I do like the romance a lot. I can see why everyone swoons over Kenneally's books, in terms of the romance. Ezra is a sweetie and Taylor goes after what she wants. It doesn't take long for both of these two to realize that they both want each other. I like that Kenneally makes intimacy something very important in this book.
Overall, I do like this book. I had issues with it (which I'll discuss), but I did like it. I'm not sure I want to go back and read any of Kenneally's other books, but I may keep an eye out for books by her in the future.
What I Did Not Like:
The whole premise of this book is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but I couldn't get past it. Taylor covers for Ben (her then-boyfriend) by saying that the Adderall pills were hers, when she is found with them (she was sleeping outside on a blanket at the time, and Ben had gone to the bathroom). Then she covers for Ben, because 1) he's poor and needs the scholarship and can't get kicked out because he needs the opportunity at St. Andrew's and 2) she was hoping her father's name would be enough to bail her out and get her a slap on the wrist at most.
But she covers for Ben, and she gets kicked out, and it's all over the news. See, it's election season, and the good senator is up for reelection. And Taylor's stunt has his numbers in favor dropping. Honestly, this move is both selfless and selfish. Taylor chooses Ben over her family in this moment. She's doing it for somewhat noble reasons, but you can tell that she is being incredibly stupid, by covering for him.
I couldn't get past this. It bothered me throughout the entire book. She could have gone to jail! She's a minor found with possession of drugs. NO ONE is worth covering for, when it comes to drugs. I mean, maybe my perspective is different because my family is incredibly poor, and we've never been able to take anything for granted, so covering for someone so that they won't get in trouble but we might? Nope, that wouldn't happen. It's lying, it's dishonest, and it costs us.
Another complaint - we never get to see some sort of conclusion or resolution in terms of Taylor and the Hundred Oaks captain, Nicole. Nicole is a terrible person, constantly trying to make Taylor's life miserable (probably to get Taylor to quit the team). Nicole isn't even a good soccer player! But anyway, this part of the story kind of just fizzles out after a while. It's there, but Nicole's presence disappears towards the end. Same with the idiot coach. I wanted to see some sort of resolution there, but all we got was Taylor's father swooping in to save the day for Taylor. Hmm...
There was something else but I can't remember and didn't note it, so I will stop here.
Would I Recommend It:
I have a feeling that my complaints are limited to me and me alone, so I think I'd probably recommend this book, for YA contemporary fans. This book is not totally light and fluffy, and deals with some tough issues. I didn't like Taylor covering for the boyfriend to begin with, so it held back my liking of the book. BUT, I think Kenneally fans will be just fine with this one.
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I don't mind that I read this book and didn't completely love it - I do like it and I'm glad I read it. I'm just not as in love with Kenneally's books like everyone else? Perhaps I should read a different one to test this hypothesis. Fluff, please!
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