cover image Wild Cards

Wild Cards

Simone Elkeles. Walker, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3437-2

Elkeles (the Perfect Chemistry books) is in familiar territory with this football-themed romance between Ashtyn Parker, captain of her high school’s team, and Derek Fitzpatrick, a bad boy with a heart of gold. When Derek’s stepmother Brandi, her young son, and Derek move into Ashtyn’s suburban Chicago home (Brandi is Ashtyn’s older sister), the two teenagers clash and sparks fly. There’s never any question that Ashtyn and Derek will end up together (her current quarterback boyfriend is a jerk), and their constant claims that they can’t stand each other get old and make them both come across as oblivious. The novel alternates between the two teens’ first-person narratives, but the already weak story is further let down by clichéd, hard-to-swallow dialogue and internal monologues (“Shit, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to go. I’m supposed to keep my emotions in check and only hook up with girls who want a good time”). Elkeles does little with Ashtyn’s supposed passion for football, and the romantic chemistry isn’t enough to rescue this uninspiring, by-the-numbers romance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Oct.)■