Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Taylor has always grown up expecting the most of herself. After all, her father is a State Senator, and he and her mother have high expectations for their youngest daughter. At her private school, Taylor excels at school and is now captain of her soccer team. She has a close group of friends and a boyfriend, Ben. But all of that changes when Taylor makes a mistake--and gets kicked out of school. Now she's forced to start over at the local public school, which puts her dreams of Ivy League college in jeopardy. She joins the school's soccer team and tries to make things right with her family, but she can't deal with the secrets she's keeping, or the crushing disappointment of her entire family.
I can't help it: Kenneally's books are just enjoyable. This one leaves you in the dark in the beginning as to exactly what happened to Taylor--while frustrating, it builds suspense effectively and keeps you turning pages. Taylor's under so much pressure, but Kenneally easily captures the teen experience and the dramatic "life and death" sensation of being a teenager. Sometimes you roll your eyes at Taylor's actions, but you have to remember what it's like to be a teenager: you really do feel bad for the kid. Her parents put a crazy amount of pressure on Taylor, as do her perfect older twin siblings, and the book offers a good commentary about the burden and anxiety teens face these days regarding school and the college process. Plus, Taylor has the extra stress of her behavior being under the microscope of her father's senate campaign.
I was a little frustrated about how Taylor couldn't handle talking to her parents about her life, but could fall quickly and easily into a mature romantic relationship, but that seems to be par for the course for many YA novels these days. Besides, you can't help rooting for her relationship (and the cute guy). I enjoyed the message in this novel about taking a step back, finding yourself, and doing things your own way. I think it's a message that could benefit many teens. I also couldn't help but fall for Taylor, even if she was frustrating at times, and overall, I enjoyed this one. Kenneally has a way with words and writing teens--her books are worth the read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 7/5.
You can read my review of Kenneally's earlier novel BREATHE, ANNIE BREATHE here.
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