by Leslie Connor
Publication Date: June 24th 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
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Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.
But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.
Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.
When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.
Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love. (Goodreads)
When basketball star Brady Cullen asks Bettina out, she can hardly believe her luck, especially since her super strict family seems to approve of him. So she jumps on the chance to get some time out of the house. But things start to change when the summer ends, and school begins, and with these changes, comes great turmoil.
Bettina had the makings to be a really amazing character. She was Greek, artsy, and all kinds of awesome, but she’s also pretty much a pushover. Her father was overbearing and rarely ever even let her out of the house. So when she saw a little bit of rebellious freedom in her future when Brady asks her out, she jumped on it. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well for her after Brady changed. I really wish that she had stuck up for herself earlier in the novel, both to Brady and her father. It really bothered me that she didn’t tell anyone close to her what was going on in her life. It’s never good for one to hold in so much information, especially if you are only doing it for reasons such as getting to spend time away from your family or getting out of the house. Yes, her father was insanely overbearing, and I can see why she would need a break from time to time, but she definitely went about it the wrong way. One thing I always stress to my daughters is to never, ever let someone hurt you, and to always go to someone for help if they do. Easier said than done, I know, especially when you are a teenager with raging hormones, and just want a little freedom in life. I just really with Bettina would have stepped up and at least talked to someone. People were there, willing to listen, but she never really even tried to talk to them, and that made me very sad for her.
Brady, the ‘boyfriend’ in the novel, was a jerk. Flat out, jerk. Bettina stayed with him a heck of a lot longer than she ever should have. While we know from the blurb that he changes over the summer, it’s never really said as to why he changed. I can’t see how just ‘becoming popular’ could have turned him from such a sweet, shy guy into the cruel being that he had become. What’s worse is that he’s never really held accountable for the abuse that he caused.
While I’m glad that Bettina had found a caring soul in “Cowboy”, someone that treated her kind and actually listened to her, I barely felt the connection between the two. Cowboy was someone that she should have been able to open up to, and while she did in a way, but she really didn’t. Also, I don’t see how they came so close over such a short amount of time that they were together to have warranted an ‘I Love You’ from each other. It never really seemed like they had gotten that close to me. Both of these characters had experienced abuse, and that totally could have bonded them, but it was rarely ever discussed between the two. These two characters, despite the major age difference, could have been really great friends until Bettina was of legal age.
There were some really great secondary characters in the book that I really enjoyed. Two being Tony and Bonnie, who were friends from school whose relationships with Bettina grew over the course of the book, and who I found myself wishing that Bettina would talk to about what she was going through. Another was Tony’s grandmother, Regina, and I would have to say that this woman was really the highlight of the book for me. Such a caring, wonderful woman, even if she was insanely scary at times. I also loved the sweet relationship between Bettina and her younger brothers. As for her father, on the other hand, I didn’t care about him so much. He didn’t seem like much of a father to her, always seemed to be overlooking her while also being insanely controlling. Luckily he does redeem himself a bit in the end, but there for a while, I pretty much hated him.
The storyline for the book was quite engrossing, and I found myself reading this book very quickly. There were quite a few parts in the novel, especially near the end, that made me ugly cry. That doesn’t happen a lot with books, but with this one, I just couldn’t hold it back. I think this book would make a great book to discuss as a group read, especially between teenage girls. It would definitely make for an interesting discussion for teens and parents as well.
Overall; while you may thing after reading this review that I didn’t like the book, please know that I really did enjoy it. Some things were insanely frustrating, and some things I wish were different, but in the end, it really did make for a great read. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.