Series: Wild Cards
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Source: I checked this out via my online local library!
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. 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.
Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Kobo
Precursor: To dispel any confusion, this book was originally titled Wild Cards but then they reprinted it as Better Than Perfect.
To give you some background on my reading experience with this one, I definitely read this two years ago, and then promptly forgot about it. There's no trace of it on my goodreads, so I thought it was a fluke and that this book was just extremely similar to another that I have read. But alas, I was just reading a book that I did remember all to well (cue Taylor Swift) and having weird deja vu moments the whole entire time.
If you didn't read the synopsis (we all do it every now and again) this book is essentially about two teenagers who hate each other and then end up falling in love with each other. Ashtyn is a girl football player (gasp!) who was recently named captain of her team. Derek is a misunderstood "bad boy" who is just actually a really stand up guy and a former football god. Add a lot of unnecessary drama, and you got this book.
One of the first books I read when I got my nook (and subsequently started reading young adult) was Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles and then the sequel, Return to Paradise. I absolutely loved the two, and they were so well done. I then read her Perfect Chemistry trilogy and ate them up. I didn't love them, but I had such a blast. I expected one of those two to happen in Better Than Perfect. With a main character who defies gender roles by playing football, I thought there was a great opportunity to touch on sexism. (My viewpoint is that women should feel free to play any sport they want, including football. However, some people view football as a "men's sport," which I completely understand. And generally speaking, men and women are built differently so it can be pretty dangerous for a women to play with a male team. But hey, everyone should have equal chances that should be based off of skill) Instead, I got a book with another whiny MC who didn't think of others, and that is where my main issue with this book lies.
Ashtyn is very self-absorbed. She doesn't have a huge ego or anything like that, but she never takes a step back and tries to see things from other people's perspectives, nor does she think about what other people might be going through. The whole entire book, Ashtyn is worried about herself and I just couldn't get over that. Besides that fatal flaw, there wasn't anything I disliked about her, but she grated on my nerves. At the end of the day, this book is a romance between Derek (who is great) and Ashtyn, who I dislike. Because of that, I wasn't on board with the romance at all.
Also, just as a little side note. The end of the book is very cheesy and Ashtyn has this one line where she says she didn't believe in love at first sight but now she does. I'm calling BS on that, because Ashtyn literally stabbed Derek when she first saw him. I don't think that's love.
As for the other characters, most of them fell flat. There were a couple side characters (Derek's grandmother, Ashtyn's dad, Derek's little brother, Ashtyn's teamates) but none of them stood out except Derek's grandmother. I wish that Elkeles either developed these characters more or just left them out of the book. Most didn't serve a purpose. As for Derek, I though he was a good male main charcter. I don't think he had too much of a personality though. He was very much cookie cutter male love interest, and I wish he stood out of the crowd for me. My favorite character had to be Derek's grandmother. When she was introduced, my interest for this book skyrocketed. She was hilarious and was what really gave me the push to finish the book.
I just have a couple of other notes about this book. One, the book was way too long. As long as this book was (352 pages) I expected more depth out of the plot and the characters. There were several things I think could have been expanded on (the family issues, learning to forgive, etc.) and some that could have been cut (random scenes with side characters that are then only mentioned at the end of the book). As for the narration, I would recommend reading this in print. I didn't like the narrator for Ashtyn (Amy Rubinate), which did not help with my dislike of the actual character. Kirby Heyborne was pretty good, but the southern accent he did was irritating at times. I live in North Carolina, and while it is the southern-est of southern states, I rarely hear an accent that thick. At times it made the character seem over the top and silly.
I don't have much to say for what I liked about this book. (Agh my review is so negative!) It was very standard YA, and I am disappointed considering how much I have enjoyed Elkeles other novels. At the end of the day, none of the characters were fabulous (besides one), and I just was never fully on board with the romance. I am not recommending this. If you are looking for a YA contemporary with not a lot of substance that you can read in a day or two, this is for you. But I was looking for something more.
If you want to read Simone Elkeles, I highly recommend Leaving Paradise. It does have some pretty dark themes and has a good balance between romance and other plots. However, if you want a more romance-focused YA contemporary, check out Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Just don't read Better Than Perfect.