Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: December 1, 2011
Series: Hundred Oaks #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: ARC Tour
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.
But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?
Jordan is an amazing protagonist. (I'm having a hard time not drawing out the amaaaaaaaazing.) She is tough, having grown up playing football with the boys, but she also has a feminine vulnerability. I LOVE that. While she does retain her femininity, she's still not a girly girl. She's a tomboy who shuns dresses and gets embarrassed if she gets emotional in front of her teammates. She doesn't like to show weakness, because she's a girl who is trying to thrive in a man's world. And she's succeeding at it. She smudges those lines that define femininity.
Her group of close teammate friends is awesome. Henry (Jordan's BFF) is my favorite. J.J. cracks me up and Carter is adorable. They're great friends and accept her as their quarterback. They are fiercely loyal to Jordan and protective of her, whether it is from opposing defenses or snide comments. But when Jordan needs advice about things like feelings, they're not the best place to turn. So she also finds value in female friendships, which is another thing about her that I love. Marie is my favorite of the female friends, because she knows what a flea flicker is. This makes her awesome in my book.
Upon seeing that Jordan's top choice college program is Alabama and that they've been scouting her, I had a series of reactions. The first one was to throw up a little in my mouth. (As an LSU alum and lifelong fan, this is a standard reaction to seeing mention of the Tide. Particularly this year.) My second reaction was disbelief accompanied by a cringe. The disbelief because, in reality, Bama would not be willing to use up a scholarship on a female quarterback to play in a conference as defensively brutal as the SEC. Toughness is paramount. And the cringe was because I hated thinking that, even though it's true. Girls play for schools like Jacksonville State. As kickers. Who rarely play. (Speaking of, love the shout outs to Ashley Martin and other female college football players that are included in the story.) They don't play QB in college, especially not for Division I FBS programs as elite as Alabama. BUT, Jordan knows this, and complains about it. She's driven to want to break that barrier and to be the exception and to open doors that have previously been shut and locked to women. Also, the way that this all plays out is a far cry from the lack of realism that I initially expected after reading the first few pages.
The pacing is steady. Every scene is enjoyable and fun to read. There's a wide spectrum of emotions throughout the story from anger, disappointment, and heartbreak to victory, love, and happiness. There is a natural humor in the dialog which feels authentic and easy. Yes, there is a lot of football taking place in this book, which is awesome for those of us who love it. But, for those who don't know anything about it or don't care, or even for those who dislike it, there is so, so, SO much happening in this book that is not football. And you don't have to know what a safety blitz is to understand what is going on. There are relationship struggles between friends, family, significant others. Kenneally touches upon a plethora of issues such as sexism, integrity, sexuality, what it means to be a teammate, stereotyping, overprotective/overbearing relationships - so many things that teenagers and women and everyone face while growing up and in life. Everybody should be able to find something in this book with which to identify. There is some discussion about sex and a little bit of sexy times (not graphic). It's a cute and fun book, but it doesn't exist to be fluffy. Not that there's anything wrong with fluffy - Catching Jordan just isn't that. It has depth to it. And the ending is really satisfying.
One thing that I would have liked to see is Jordan taking a few more hits in games. She only gets hit by another team's defenders once (and by her own once in practice, but I'm not counting that), and she doesn't come out of it unaffected. I'd have liked to see her exhibit some physical toughness where hits are concerned, getting sacked a few times and continuing to play through it. I think seeing her take at least a couple of real hits and then getting up would have made her seem a lot stronger physically, which would've just reinforced the believability of her opportunity to play at a college level. No big deal, but something I would have liked to see as a way to make Jordan's argument for playing collegiate ball a little stronger and to show that guys aren't the only ones who can take hits.
So yeah, I love this book. It's awesome. Don't let football put you off from reading it if you don't like that kind of stuff. If you do like that kind of stuff, then you'll definitely want to pick this one up. It does football justice without being confusing for anyone who doesn't know the game, and it contains so many things about being a teenager and growing up and life and relationships. It might even be my favorite contemporary novel of the year (sorry, Lola).