Release Date: July 5, 2016 << TODAY!!
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Hundred Oaks
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?
Taylor was under a lot of pressure and works herself to the bone to achieve her goals and her parents' expectations, but she had a pretty great life. She attends a prestigious private school, she's the captain of the soccer team, and she grew up in wealth and privilege as a senator's daughter. Then, everything came crashing down for Taylor after one wrong decision. She was found with numerous Adderall pills that actually belonged to her then-boyfriend Ben. There was also Adderall in her system because she took a couple previously to help her stay up to do her homework. She covered for Ben, saying that the pills were hers because she (being a senator's daughter) thought she'd get a slap on the wrist while Ben, being a scholarship student, would get kicked out. Instead, her father refused to help bail her out of the mess and she got expelled. As she continues to hide the truth about the pills, she realized that her choices had bigger repercussions, especially with her father's chances for re-election.
I really enjoyed Taylor's character. I found her easy to like, and I related to her because my parents had certain expectations and put a lot of pressure on me during high school and college. It was wonderful seeing her grow throughout the novel, seeing her navigate through her new school, meeting new friends, and figure things out and come to important realizations about working hard but also living her life. I was with her the whole way and rooted for her.
My other favorite thing was Taylor's family--I'm adding the Lukens on my short list of favorite families in YA. I love how they're a pretty close-knit family even though her parents are very busy being in politics and her older siblings (twins Jenna and Oliver) are away in college. Her rapport with Jenna and Oliver was fun, but I especially love how Taylor and her dad worked on their relationship.
As with other Miranda Kenneally books, romance plays a big part in the novel and she doesn't disappoint here. The romance was everything I wanted in my YA contemporary. Taylor and Ezra are definitely my new favorite Hundred Oaks couple. Ezra was the sweetest and definitely swoon-worthy. He is Taylor's brother Oliver's best friend and Taylor has had a crush on him forever but miscommunication kept them apart. Taylor was still reeling over what happened with her ex-boyfriend Ben, so it took a little bit for them to get together but once they did they couldn't keep their hands off each other. While this book isn't as explicit as Stealing Parker I still say the romance is more appropriate for older YA readers because things did get pretty hot and heavy. I did love the romance though, and it's great that while it's a big part of the novel it didn't overtake everything. The main story is still about Taylor working through her problems and growing up.
And, if you're like me, and you've read the other Hundred Oaks books then you'll appreciate cameo appearances of characters in previous books, like Jack Goodwin (love interested in Racing Savannah) who was in a few scenes and was mentioned quite a bit (since he used to date Taylor's sister Jenna).
Overall, Defending Taylor was an entertaining, compulsively readable YA contemporary. I absolutely LOVED it! It's also a really good book to read when you're in a reading slump--it's a quick, light read but it has substance that it's not all fluff, great characters, and it has a swoony/steamy romance. If you're a fan of contemporary YAs with a strong romance and/or a fan of the Hundred Oaks series, it's a must-read and you'll devour Defending Taylor like I did.
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