Author: Miranda Kenneally
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Breathe, Annie, Breathe, Jesse's Girl, Coming Up for Air
Publication date: July 5th 2016
Source: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
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?
Praise for Jesse's Girl:"A a fun, sexy, suck-me-in read."-Katie McGarry, author of Nowhere But Here and Pushing the Limits"An absorbing story...highly enjoyable."-Kirkus"Inspires as it entertains."-Publishers Weekly
Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Taylor Lukens had a perfect life. With great support from her fantastic family, including a senator father, and two older siblings who love her, she’s captain of the soccer and debate team at her private boarding school and on the road to Yale. But everything changes after one evening in the woods where she takes the fall for her boyfriend Ben, who has a backpack full of prescription pills.
Expelled from her private school, Taylor is forced to do senior year at Hundred Oaks High, where she’s given the brush-off by most people who think she’s rich, elitist and snobby. And the soccer team is brutal to her, too. The one bright spot in her life is Ezra, her brother’s best friend and her lifelong crush, who’s showing a lot of interest in her these days, and helping her see that maybe, just maybe, there might be more to life than getting into Yale.
In some ways, Taylor is a classic case of privilege gone wrong, but this is Miranda Kenneally, and she would never let it go with just that. There are no easy answers in this book. Defending Taylor does a fantastic job of balancing a very realistic teen attitude with a very complex situation. Taylor did something wrong, but she also really pays the consequences.
She’s a girl who’s driven to succeed, so much so that she’s used to sacrifice, used to not sleeping a lot, and yes, used to occasionally taking an Adderall to help her focus. And it’s this drive, determination and self-sacrifice that leads her to possibly destroy her own life and her father’s career.
While I wish that the consequences of drug use in this book had been explored a bit further (taking prescription drugs is nothing to sneeze at), I honestly don’t think that I’ve read a YA contemporary book where the consequences of making a bad decision are so harsh. It’s a great exploration of how one mistake can define you -and whether it should. Do we allow the media to impact our ideas of people too much? Do we shame people who have made mistakes in an otherwise blameless life? I appreciate that Miranda Kenneally doesn’t shy away from these questions, or from the bad parts of Taylor’s life.
But it’s not all sadness. Because Ezra is there, and he’s not only a fantastic and sexy boyfriend (swoon), he’s also just as complex as Taylor. Watching them grow and help one another out…it’s such a great part of the book. Healthy relationships can sometimes be rare in YA, and I loved that this one is all about navigating one without a ton of drama.
This is a book about the ways that one mistake or decision can hurt or change you. But it’s also a book about how, if you let yourself have fun and listen to what your heart is telling you, you can move on…and sometimes to better things that you never knew were a possibility.
Family Matters: Miranda Kenneally always creates really amazing families, and Taylor’s is no exception. Her dad, in particular, has her best interests at heart, but obviously pushes her really hard – maybe too hard. Her brother and sister also play a huge role in how Taylor thinks about herself.
Bend It Like Beckham: As some of you know, I’m a huge YA sports reader, and I really enjoyed all of the scenes of Taylor on the field with her new team.
Sex Positivity: I’ve long been a fan of the fact that Miranda Kenneally always has characters who aren’t afraid to be sexy and have sex in safe, consensual ways. I think it’s pretty realistic for teens in a small town and Kenneally makes it enjoyable and empowering.
Book Theme Song:
What have I done?
I wish I could run,
Away from this ship going under
Just trying to help
Hurt everyone else
Now I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders
What can you do when your good isn’t good enough
And all that you touch tumbles down?
Cause my best intentions
Keep making a mess of things,
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me to get it right, to get it right?
Can I start again, with my faith shaken?
Cause I can’t go back and undo this
I just have to stay and face my mistakes,
But if I get stronger and wiser, I’ll get through this
The Final Word:
Honestly, if DEFENDING TAYLOR had been written by anyone else, I’m not sure this concept would have worked. Miranda Kenneally is just a master at writing very, very realistic situations and characters that you believe in and root for. Taylor’s story is one of not only owning up to mistakes and dealing with consequences, but giving herself permission to have fun and try new things. It’s a light message, but it’s couched in a book that’s subtly complex. While Breathe, Annie, Breathe remains my favorite of Kenneally’s books, this one ranks second for me, and it’s definitely a worthy addition to the Hundred Oaks series.
DEFENDING TAYLOR is out in bookstores now. Have you read it or any other Hundred Oaks books? Are you a sports book reader? What would you have done in Taylor’s situation? Let me know in the comments!