Rummanah Aasi
Description: 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?


Review: Defending Taylor is an ambitious book in the Hundred Oaks series that doesn't quite meets its mark. Kenneally tackles some tough topics in the book such as parental expectations, perfectionism, drug abuse, and dyslexia which is admirable and gives the book some depth. Taylor is a driven heroine who feels like her life has always been mapped out before her. Daughter of a political, she is expected to excel in her classes and extracurricular activities and go to an Ivy League school just like her siblings. Everything comes crashing down when Taylor made a mistake that not only tarnished her reputation but also put a stain on her father. 
  I liked Taylor for the most part because she felt like a real, flawed character. Everyone can relate to her because we all make mistakes. I admired her drive and grit to dust off herself and get back into the game though occasionally she does whip out the victim card a bit too much. Taylor's mistake is a plot device used for the character to analyze what she really wants to do with her life, which is sort of hinted in the book but I would have liked this aspect fleshed out a bit more since teens especially feel like their life is mapped out for them by their parents and they don't get to have a say. I would have liked Taylor be more self aware and driven in this aspect. Taylor's family play a big role in the book but we don't get to spend too much time with them. I wanted to learn more about her siblings and see how they interact with each other.
 The relationship between Taylor and Ezra was cute though it developed too quickly than what I would have liked. Tackling a learning disability like dyslexia was refreshing to read, but it wasn't explored enough for me. I was also happy to see some of the characters in previous books like Jack and Savannah pop up in the book. Overall Defending Taylor was a decent addition to the Hundred Oaks series. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Drug use and underage drinking is mentioned in the book. There is also some strong sexual content and language in the book too. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Faking Perfect by Rebecca Phillips, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen


Description: All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?


Review: Coming Up for Air is the concluding book in the Hundred Oaks series. I am sad to see this series end as I am always looking forward to reading it every summer. Though Coming Up for Air was an enjoyable, quick read, it still left me unsatisfied. The first half of the book is dedicated to Maggie's insecurity of feeling left out in the romance department and we don't get to see much of swimming. She wants to have an experience before she graduates high school and seeks help by selecting Levi, her best friend, as her coach. Normally I love the friends to lovers trope, but I was not convinced by Maggie and Levi's chemistry and I think this is mostly because we didn't really get a chance to see them interact alone. It frustrates me when authors don't feel like they need to develop/explore a relationship because the characters already know each other for a long time. I wanted to learn more about Maggie and Levi as individuals before they were a couple. I would have loved a more emotional relationship between Maggie and Levi instead of them jumping into a physical relationship way too quickly.
 I actually liked the second half of the book much more where we finally get back to the sport of swimming. Roxie, Maggie's rival, had a big impact on Maggie and  I was curious to see how this story line would play out but Roxie remained your stereotypical mean girl. I also wanted to learn more about Georgiana and her mother and Hunter's romantic troubles. It was important to see Maggie's self confidence came back, but it irritated me that she came to her "ah ha" epiphany after she is in a romantic relationship and not before one. The book also ends abruptly and the question of whether or not Maggie and Levi made it to the Olympics is never answered though it was fun to see what happens to Jordan and Sam in the future. Overall, not the strongest book in the Hundred Oaks series. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content in the book as well as underage drinking and some language. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: On the Fence by Kasie West, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
1 Response
  1. I was disappointed in these last two as well. I totally agree about the Roxy story line, it didn't settle out. I also wanted more from the friends. Still this has been a great series, and I am sorry to see it end.


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