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Publisher's Summary

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 that he cheers her on, but he's already earned his Olympic tryout, so sometimes his presence creates more pressure.

If that wasn't stressful enough, life becomes even more complicated once Maggie goes on a college visit. There, she realizes how much of the typical high school experience she's missed out on by being in the pool. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to try to squeeze the most out of her senior year while still training. First up? Making out with a guy. Maggie figures that Levi could be the perfect candidate - after all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie starts to discover her own feelings for Levi, she must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love.

©2017 Miranda Kenneally (P)2017 Dreamscape Media, LLC

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well written, but definitely not for young teens

Maggie and Levi have shared the same passion, competitive swimming, since childhood, and a very close friendship has formed between them because of it. At the start of the story, they are both 18 and nearing the end of their senior year in high school. Each has been accepted, with a full ride, to universities with prestigious swimming teams, Maggie in California and Levi in Texas. Because Maggie and Levi have been equally busy with school and their sport all these years, neither has ever dated, as they are unwilling to spare the time that a relationship requires. For the past several years, however, Levi has been a typical “manwhore,” easily bumping into endless, female swimmers at competitive tournaments, who are ready and willing to engage in spontaneous “hookups” with him, involving semi-public intimacies, up to and including oral sex and intercourse. Levi views these sexual encounters as nothing more than a convenient stress reliever, and he has never cared enough about his female partners’ opinions of these events to discuss it with Maggie. Nor has she cared enough to wonder about those young women’s feelings either.

Maggie is currently still a virgin, but she finds herself, more and more lately, feeling uncomfortable tension due to increasingly strong sexual “urges.” As a result, she has concluded that she, too, needs to find her own convenient, one-off, sequential, makeout partners to de-stress with. She’s not necessarily contemplating leaping right into Levi’s degree of casual promiscuity, but she certainly has no qualms about beginning the first steps that would inevitably lead her to fully follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately for her plan to launch herself into the murky waters of the sex-as-Xanax, partner-switching that apparently abounds in the teenage, competitive swim world, her first attempt is a ridiculous bust of a makeout session with a college athlete, at a drunken frat party during a visit to the university she will be attending in the coming fall. Afterwards, as she mentally reviews her own sexual performance as well as that of her partner, Maggie decides that all she needs, in order to, in the future, do a much more competent job at emulating Levi’s dissipated approach to sex, is a sex tutor. And who better for the job than the king of sexual flings himself, her good buddy, Levi?

It's always difficult to find anything new and different in a "friends to lovers" romance, whether it is an adult, New Adult (NA), or Young Adult (YA) novel. Mainly because the motivation for the two previously platonic BFFs for not committing to romantic love with each other is always the same: "I don’t dare get involved with my best friend romantically, because if the romance doesn’t work out, I'll lose my friend!" Given that, for generations now within Western culture, the most ideal mate has been considered to be a best friend whom one feels terrific sexual chemistry with, and given the fact that virtually no one in the real world has any chance of maintaining the huge amounts of friendship-bonding time, that is only possible in the free-wheeling teen years, once adult life, with its manifold responsibilities, takes over, this romantic conflict is, of course, nonsense on both counts.

There is an additional romance trope in this novel, which has been popular in adult romance, going back at least 40 years. It consists of one or both of the romantic protagonists, at the beginning of the book, kicking off their relationship by cold-bloodedly deciding to use each other for the selfish, instant gratification of uncommitted, temporary, meaningless sex. Given that this trope occurs in a romance novel, which must always include an HEA, that narcissistic beginning, of course, always magically evolves into committed love. This trope is not one that I personally enjoy, because it is so dehumanizing. And it feels very poorly motivated, in particular, in the case of a story that has the additional trope of "friends become lovers." How, I ask myself, can anyone be so clueless as to believe that treating a BFF like a convenient, unpaid prostitute is the act of a loving friend?

It is important to mention that, in this novel, MK breaks one of the biggest taboos of YA in that this is one of the most erotic YA novels I’ve ever read. Yes, both of these protagonists are over 18 and consenting adults of the same age. But if MK wanted to write a novel with sexual content, it would have been less of a violation of genre expectations if she had written the story as NA rather than YA. But because this book has been marketed as YA, due to its sexual content, I would not personally recommend it for anyone under the age of 17. MK several times goes so far as to offer some below-the-belt action, on stage, which is definitely PG-13. In addition, many adult readers of YA romance (who are estimated to represent 60% of the readership of YA), purposely read YA romance instead of adult romance in order to avoid sex scenes. Such readers may be shocked at the degree of sexual content in this book. On the other hand, for adult readers who would be happy to experience a little teen-sex titillation in a YA novel, without having to endure the enormously graphic sex scenes that drag out endlessly in a huge percentage of NA and adult romance novels, this book will definitely fill the bill. Frequent sexual experimentation sessions between two extremely fit athletes who are both young, gorgeous, and equally ripped, who love and respect each other as friends and fellow elite athletes, and who discover they are madly sexually attracted, makes for some pretty hot make-out scenes.

This book is secondarily billed as a sports romance. For me personally, my favorite version of that subgenre of YA romance is when the hero and heroine are both elite athletes in the same sport, which is definitely the case here. I am not a fan of, and certainly not an expert on the sport of swimming. However, the swimming scenes were an enjoyable read for me, because they seem quite authentic.

Overall, this is not my favorite of MK’s YA novels, not by a long shot. However, she is such a polished writer, I mostly enjoyed the book in spite of my personal prejudices against the romance tropes described above.

I experienced this book both in Kindle format and as an Audible recording, utilizing the WhisperSync program through Amazon. The narrator does a good job with both male and female voices, of all ages, and an excellent job acting out all the parts.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 3 stars
Hero: 3 stars
Subcharacters: 4 stars
Romance Plot: 3 stars
Elite Swimming Plot: 4 stars
Swimming Enemy Melodrama Plot: 3 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Audiobook Narration: 4 stars
Overall: 3.5 rounded to 4 stars

  • Overall
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sad

worst book out of the hundred oaks series, very disappointed
Very happy about the ending thought talking about Sam and Jordan