Review: Better Than Perfect by Simone Elkeles

Posted 1 October, 2013 by Gabbie in Review / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Better Than Perfect by Simone ElkelesBetter Than Perfect by Simone Elkeles
Series: Wild Cards #1
Publisher: Walker & Company on October 1, 2013
Source: NetGalley
Pages: 288
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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?

Favorite Quote(s):

“Seriously, Ashtyn, I bet my left nut you wouldn’t even notice if I got your dog fixed.’ ‘Your left nut?’ I ask. ‘Why not your right one? Guys never say they’ll bet their right nut, only their left. Why is that?’ ‘Because all guys know their right nut is the dominant one, so bettin’ the left one is a safe choice. Now don’t change the subject and answer my question.’”

“When her boyfriend kissed her outside, I didn’t miss the silent ‘f**k you, she’s mine’ vibe he sent me. Ashtyn is oblivious. The guy obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to the universe, with his black Corvette convertible and dark sunglasses he doesn’t even take off when he’s kissing her. That’s like keeping your socks on when you’re having sex—complete douche move. I’m surprised Ashytn fell for that kind of guy, whose car is an extension of his d*ck.”

“‘You want to break the rule?’ He nods slowly. ‘Yeah.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I’m tryin’ to push you away when all I want to do is hold you. I know you say you don’t want a hero, but damn I’d like to be that guy who’ll save you from spiders and whatever and whoever else hurts you.’”

Favorite Character: Derek. I LOVE HIM!!
First Line:

“Getting caught wasn’t part of the plan.”

My Musings: Now I’ve read some of Simone Elkeles’ novels in the past. Although I haven’t read the Perfect Chemistry series (I know, I need to!), I fell in love with Elkeles’ writing in the How To Ruin series. So when my request for this novel was accepted on NetGalley, I was ecstatic. Jumping up and down ecstatic. So I’m going to warn you now: beware of quote overload. There were just so many…so I tried to scale it back. But still, you have been warned!

Wild Cards is about a girl named Ashtyn and a boy named Derek. Ashtyn’s sister married Derek’s dad, and Derek, Brandi, and Julian (Brandi’s son) moved in with Ashtyn and her dad. So Ashtyn is a football player, and when she’s voted team captain, everything goes to crap. And some crazy stuff happens, and tada! You have an amazing novel.

“I can tell Ashtyn is a girl who plays by her own rules and refuses to acknowledge that there’s some kind of electricity flying between us. The more she protests, the more I know I’ve gotten under her skin.”

Ashtyn is a character that I didn’t love at first. She was holding on to lost hopes of her boyfriend, Landon. She let him get her down, and she was constantly feeling guilty about getting something that she deserved. But once she got over that, I loved her. Ashtyn was one of the strongest characters that I’ve read. She was determined and didn’t take crap from anyone. She did what she loved, even if she was frequently ridiculed for playing a ‘boy’s’ sport. She was snarky and witty, especially around Derek. Yet she was feminine and girly at the same time. I could definitely relate to her, and I adored her personality. She really grew over the course of the novel, and she realized that not everyone leaves. It was glad that she finally found someone who was willing to stay.

“‘Is he tall…with blue eyes, a southern accent, and a knit cap?’ I ask, my heart beating so fast I wonder if it’s going to burst out of my chest. My sister’s eyes go wider. We both realize my horrific mistake and race to the shed.”

“I’m talking to a dog. I feel like that movie where the guy is stranded on a desert island and ends up talking to a volleyball as if it’s his best friend/ I sure as hell hope this isn’t a sign that I’m destined to have Falkor as my only friend while I’m in Chicago. That would suck more than being stuck in Headmaster Crowe’s office getting lectured for an hour.”

Derek was one of the best male narrators that I’ve read. I absolutely adored his voice. He was funny, arrogant, and sarcastic. Usually I dislike characters like that, but Derek was different. It made him, him, and there’s something just so lovable about the southern-accented boy.

“I’ve seen the videos online. We’re supposed to be jumping on two different trampolines. ‘You need to find and feel each other’s rhythm’s first.’ Sounds like screwing, not trampolining, but I’m game.”

Derek was a complex character, filled with layers that you had to plow through to get to the person hiding inside. Derek had been carrying around guilt about his mother’s death for years. He hid that pain behind a wall of sarcasm and arrogance. He didn’t get close to anyone, and held everyone at an arm’s length away.

“When I’m ready to call it quits on the castle-making, I race Julian into Lake Michigan to wash off the sand. I show him how to float, supporting his back. We splash and play until the little guy starts getting sunburned, so he climbs on my shoulders as I carry him back to shore. He leans down and hugs my neck. ‘I’m glad you’re my brother, Derek.’”

He was the typical hot book boy, but I was able to relate to his character on a deeper level. Under the façade, he was a good boy who loved hard. That could definitely be seen in his interactions with his step brother, Julian. Seeing the way that Derek acted around his brother was endearing to say the least. It just took a while for him to break through the walls he had built up.

“‘I think you have a self-esteem problem.’ ‘Self-esteem problem?’ He looks at me sideways, then chuckles. ‘Yeah, okay.’ ‘Derek,’ I say in the most soft, feminine, voice. ‘Admitting is the first step to recovery.’”

“In my sleepy state I tell myself I’ll do anything to keep him here with me. ‘Don’t leave me,’ I mumble into his chest as I shiver uncontrollably. ‘I won’t.’ His arms wrap around me and I feel safe…away from the iceberg in my dream and the loneliness in my heart and the pain of losing everyone I ever loved.”

Derek and Ashtyn together could be described as ‘perfect chemistry’. See what I did there? Haha. But anyways, Derek and Ashtyn complemented each other well.

“He’s my best friend, the one who taught me that I’m worthy of being loved. He made me feel confident that my mom was the one who was losing out.”

Derek got Ashtyn to believe in herself. He was always encouraging her to work for her goals. Ashtyn helped Derek to let go of the guilt that he’d been harboring. They brought out the best in each other. And I loved that there was no insta-love. Yeah, there was an attraction at first, but it wasn’t that ‘looking into each others’ eyes and knowing they were ‘the one’. It was refreshing to see their relationship build over the course of the novel.

“When I walk into the gym, Ashtyn’s standing atop the center trampoline wearing a matching skintight leotard that leaves nothing to the imagination. Her gaze moves downward and her hand flies to her mouth as she giggles. “Oh my…Derek, your, umm…’ ‘Huge, I know. Stop staring at it or soon you’ll be seein’ how impressive it really gets.’ I gesture to her chest. ‘You cold, Sugar Pie?’ She crosses her arms on her chest when she realizes that I’m not the only one with body parts sticking out.”

And also, I have to add, their banter is what made this novel. It was hilarious, and their taunting of one another really gave the novel sustenance. They really had the ability to get under one another’s skin. I loved it!

“When the elevator opens, I hear a familiar cranky old lady say in a commanding voice, ‘I’m telling you that I don’t need an appointment with the coach! I need to see him now.’ Derek’s grandmother is wielding her umbrella like a sword in front of the doorman’s face. The woman looks ready to slice the doorman in two, or at least whack him on the head if she doesn’t get her way. ‘Ma’am, it’s against policy to let you in the elevator without an appointment. ‘You are obviously a nincompoop when it comes to recognizing authority,’ Elizabeth Worthington barks out, frustration and agitation laced in her voice. ‘Now get out of my way so I can see my granddaughter…’”

But I’ll have to say that my second favorite character in this novel was Elizabeth Worthington. She is Derek’s biological grandmother. At first I thought she was some stuck up old lady, and I guess she was. But as Derek did with others, he brought out the best in her. Through his sarcastic wit, he managed to warm his grandmother’s personality. She was the funniest character that I’ve read in a while. Her slightly snobbish outlook on life kept me in a constant state of laughter. But she also loved hard, just like her grandson. She took in Ashtyn and her family like they were her own.

“‘I told you that you’d be hopeless without me.’ She gestures to my ears. ‘You should listen better, or get those ears of yours tested. You’re family to me now. Contrary to popular belief, I look after my family. No offense, but your sister’s a flake and your father could use a little pep in his step. Ya’ll need a little Texas influence, if you ask me.’”

Like the Perfect Chemistry series, this novel is set in Chicago, with some excursions to California and Texas. Although setting didn’t have a large influence in the novel, it was always present. The way in which Elkeles described the settings made me feel as if I were actually where the characters were. Elkeles has a penchant for smoothly flowing writing, and that was seen in this novel. Written in dual points of view, Elkeles was able to capture the personalities of both Derek and Ashtyn. They had distinct voices, and I enjoyed reading both of them. It was nice to see the inner workings of both of their minds.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good romance. In addition, I think that anyone who loves a novel where characters really develop will love this novel. If any of you have read any of Elkeles’ novels, you’ll be sure to love this one. I’d also recommend this to those who love Sarah Dessen and Miranda Kenneally novels. It was a truly fantastic novel. A novel about a girl and boy finding themselves and working to forget the past, Wild Cards is a truly exceptional novel that is honestly one of the best that I’ve read.

5 Stars
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