Book Review: Defending Taylor
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I love the Hundred Oak series. I highly recommend it if you're a fan of contemporaries with strong female leads. It should also be noted that you don't necessarily have to read these in order, but I find it helpful as previous characters often make appearances as the series progresses.
Taylor Lukens is the perfect daughter of a Tennessee senator. Her family is constantly in the spotlight which requires her to be beyond reproach, but when she is involved in a drug scandal at her boarding school, she falls from grace quickly. Her family is disappointed and the media is showcasing her as the fallen angel. She feels awful that her mistakes are causing her father to lose ground in his upcoming re-election run. To make matters worse, Taylor is kicked out of boarding school and has to return home to Franklin to attend Hundred Oaks High.
Taylor is less than thrilled with her new circumstances. I can't imagine moving to a brand new school for Senior year. She doesn't find her classes challenging and she doesn't have a desire to make new friends. She just wants to stay out of trouble and play soccer, but that's made more difficult considering her old team looked down on Hundred Oaks every time they left the field. Taylor has to learn that her skills on the pitch are not all that make her essential to a team. It won't be easy at Hundred Oaks - especially with Nicole, a soccer mean girl, calling the shots - but Taylor is determined to play her best every practice and game.
In addition to Taylor's personal drama. as with all Hundred Oaks books, there is a romance. This one pairs Taylor with her long time crush, Ezra, who also happens to be her older brother's best friend. Their entanglement comes with a bit of drama as you might expect, but overall I loved this coupling. (They aren't my favorite Hundred Oaks couple as Jordan and Sam still have that title. In fact, the moment this book was officially on the shelves, I snagged an eBook for the bonus story about Jordan.)
I liked that this novel focused on family issues like so many of the previous novels. I was a lot like Taylor as a teen. I was driven and terrified of letting my family down. My entire high school existence was driven by my need to make my parents proud, to excel in the classroom, and to go to college where my dad attended. The thought of not being successful was a constant nagging worry that drove me to focus more on school than social aspects. Taylor's drive and need to be perfect struck a chord with me.
One thing that bothered me about this read was the innuendo and sexual scenes. I admit that I am a reading prude; I felt like this one strayed into the New Adult genre more than I would have expected for a YA novel. This did not sway my rating in any way. I just wanted to note the issue.
Overall, I enjoyed Taylor's story, but it was not my favorite in the series. It has a lot to live up to based on the novels that came prior. This one felt a little rushed for me. Everything happened so quickly, but some of the issues felt unresolved. For example, the conflict between Taylor and Nicole takes up a chunk of the story, but never finds a conclusion.
As always, I love the cameos and mentions of previous characters.
One Last Gripe: I disagreed with a lot of Taylor's choices.
Favorite Thing About This Book: Taylor and Ezra's support of one another
First Sentence: When I was a little girl, Dad installed a gumball machine in our house.
Favorite Character: Ezra
Least Favorite Character: Ben
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?