Published by Evernight Teen (12th November 2021)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 3.5
When competitive swimmer Reece finds herself with a shoulder injury, she ends up being transferred to West Hill high school for the interim while she heals and goes through rehab. It was just a blip on the radar of her life, and she never intended to get more involved in the school than she had to. But when her brother’s campaign for student council president is put in jeopardy, Reece steps up to the plate to help him out and runs alongside him for Vice President. It was meant to be a smooth ride and an extra thing that Reece could put on her application for Cornell, but it turns out being a lot more than what she bargained for when her brother turns out to be president dumbass who doesn’t want to put in any of the hard yards. Things get doubly dicey when Reece finds herself falling for her brother’s rival, Zain, not only is he on the student council, he’s also the president of the athletics club, and an amputee trying for a basketball scholarship. Understanding brings the pair closer together until Zain drops a bomb about his accident which causes Reece’s entire world to implode. Navigating new relationships, injury rehab, and family loyalty, Reece begins to wonder whether relationships are really worth it. This is way more than what she signed up for, but will she be able to navigate these new challenges and come out the other side a better person than what she was going in?
This is not a normal genre for me to pick up, contemporary can be a hard path for me to navigate because there’s so many different types of stories in the genre. But this one stuck out. I was part of a book blitz for this particular book and afterwards the author approached me asking if I would like to review the story. For some reason this synopsis just stuck in my head and I had actually been thinking about the book for a while. So I jumped at the opportunity for a chance to read and review.
The story is pretty straight forward. Reece is injured during swimming practice which is a huge deal because swimming is her life, and it’s the only thing she really knows or is involved in. Everything centers around swimming. The high school that she attends is for athletes, and even the schooling curriculum is centered around the various sports that the students are a part of. It’s a school for people with exceptional skills at their sport and for those who want to take it to the next level. So when Reece is forced to attend a regular high school while she’s rehabbing her busted arm, she doesn’t really want to get involved in anything because her focus is on getting back into the water. I really loved that this story showed how someone’s world could collapse when they can’t do that one thing that they believe is their destiny. To be taken out of the very one thing that you know you’re good at, and that you’re planning your whole life around, would be devastating and so hard to navigate, so I love that this story really showed that.
The characters were well written and I loved Zain’s character especially. His whole life was basketball, until he was in an accident that ended up with him losing part of one of his legs. While still pushing for basketball, we also see that he has another love in the form of politics. I feel like his character really helped Reece because he was essentially showing her that her sport is not all she is. There can be other things. I didn’t like Jae’s character, but I really loved that she was included. The representation in the story was real and all the characters played a pivotal role in showing the different struggles that people face – Jae’s in the form of (view spoiler). Reece’s brother was incredibly annoying, but I still found myself sympathising with him, he was trying so hard to forge his own path by pushing for what he was passionate about, and not just wanting to follow in the family footsteps because it was a sure thing. I really hated that he kept shirking his responsibilities and Reece was seemingly forced to constantly pick up the pieces while Jamie never even realised how much time and effort she was putting in just to help him.
This story I think really highlights how much pressure is put on high school students to succeed, to know what they want to do in life, to push for the things that their families are passionate about while trying to find what they themselves are passionate about. Being a teenager is already so hard, and so much pressure is put on teenagers, way more than is needed. In Australia, in year 12 (the final year of high school) you’re told that you need to study harder than you’ve ever studied before, that you need to succeed in everything because this will dictate the rest of your life, you need to get a great ATAR score so that you can go to the university you want. What they don’t tell you is that after twelve months, your ATAR score is worthless. That you can apply to university as a mature aged student once that twelve months is up and still get in to do what you want to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was 24. So this story really highlights the struggles that students face and how the smallest most insignificant thing, that an adult might see as trivial, could be the center of that teenagers life at that point in time. That their world could feel like it was crashing down around them, yet no one seems to care, because they just don’t get it, or they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.
The relationship between Reece and Zain was a cute addition, but I feel like it sort of burnt out with no real importance placed upon it. It offered another chance for Reece to grow as a person, but it just seemed really over and done with quickly and I think was a little too superficial in the way it was written so I just didn’t really care about it. This story dealt with some brilliant subjects, but I feel like they could have been explored a bit deeper to really hit home more and make me feel a lot stronger about certain things that happened. I do love the growth that Reece’s character went through and the realisations that she had about herself and her athletic peers, I thought that was brilliant.
All in all this was an enjoyable book that touched on some very important subjects centered around life and the teenage experience. I feel like if the book had have been a bit longer, some subjects could have been delved into a little deeper to make me feel a bit more emotion towards it. But that’s neither here nor there, it’s still a great story with strong characters that are well written and real. If you love a contemporary young adult story that focuses on some heavy issues and growing up give this one a go, it might be your next favourite!
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