Saturday, July 30, 2016

Defying Gravity by Kendra C. Highley

Zoey Miller lives for her holidays in Aspen. Her time up on the mountain with the Madison brothers, Parker and Luke, is everything. But for the first time, it’s not enough. This time, she’s determined to win one of the brothers’ hearts.

But the brother she has in mind is a renowned player, with hordes of snow-bunnies following him around Snowmass resort. And the other…well, he’s her best friend and knows she deserves better. Namely him. And he’s going to win her heart.

Disclaimer: This book contains enough sexual tension to melt snow, the hottest near-kiss in the history of near-kisses, and a sexy snowboarder determined to win the heart of the girl he loves.

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Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is book #2 in the Finding Perfect series, but you don't have to read book #1, this may be read as a stand-alone book.

Zoey Miller loves spending her holidays in Aspen with the Madison Brothers, Parker and Luke. Her time up on the mountain with Parker and Luke are the moments she lives for. In Aspen she can be the real Zoey and not the "Class President Barbie" that everyone back in Texas seems to think she is.

Parker and Zoey have been best friends for years, but Parker, who's in love with Zoey, is hoping to be more than just friends. Unfortunately, Zoey's got her mind set on winning the heart of Luke Madison, Parker's older brother, who also happens to be a renowned player.

Anybody else feel like taking a trip to Aspen, Colorado after reading this? I think I might need to try my hand at snowboarding again! I've never been to Aspen, but I am totally ready for a visit this winter after reading this book. I was totally into all the shredding and the fact that the Madison brothers were such amazing snowboarders. I don't snowboard, which means I didn't know any of the boarding terminology, but Highley did an excellent job painting the picture for me. Although, after spending the past few days sweltering in my non-air-conditioned apartment in NYC, I was totally ready to fall in love with this snow story, but I think I mostly just fell in love with Parker. I liked the book, it was a nice quick read, but I guess after reading book one, I was expecting Zoey to be a little less of a burst into tears kind of gal. Nevertheless, other than all the crying I still really liked Zoey's character. I found her to be very down-to-earth and relatable for a girl that has a vacation home in Aspen. Furthermore, I adored Parker, but who wouldn't? Total babe. Luke, the player, on the other hand, not so much, but he seemed to have some nice redeeming qualities. In fact, I would be intrigued to read about the kind of girl that could win his heart.

Honestly, after reading Finding Perfect I was quite charmed by Ben and Paige's story and I was looking forward to reading about Paige's best friend, Zoey. However, I just didn’t enjoy reading about Zoey the same way I did reading about Paige. In fact, after reading the blurb for book two I thought this one would be a winner for me, but it just didn’t appeal to me the same way the first book did. However, Highley does a phenomenal job at creating some swoon worthy male characters and I look forward to seeing what she is up to next! On that note, I would give Defying Gravity a 3.5 star rating if I could. For fans of Kasie West and Susane Colasanti, this is great YA book to add to your TBR pile!

4 stars for young adults.
2 stars from me personally.
3 stars total.

I need to preface this review by stating I've enjoyed this author in the past, five-starring the previous book, and the majority of Entangled: Crush Publishing's titles have been a hit with me. The female narrator rubbed me the wrong way, completely derailing any enjoyment I could find from the nearly 200-page novel. This is the review from an adult perspective of a young adult novel. So please take my review with a grain of salt, but I had to get it off my chest.

I had looked forward to this novel, but the narrator sounded different, written in a different voice than her chapter at the last of the previous book, and her actions with Paige and Ben. Zoey was previously written as being seen as a shallow high school 'it' girl, who everyone wanted to be or get with. Paige spent the majority of her novel voicing how no one saw Zoey for who she truly was, and I felt Parker did the same during this novel. But no matter what light Paige and Parker showed Zoey, being 'inside' Zoey's head negated everything the author was trying to 'tell' the reader.

For me, Zoey truly was as vapid as her classmates felt her to be – boy-crazy, shallow, and her behavior contradicted how she acted in the first book.

Being an adult, I had a hard time empathizing and relating to Zoey – I couldn’t respect her at all (it was at the start through mid-book, and even near the ending). Zoey’s crush on Luke made her look vapid, even if it’s how teenage girls behave/act/react. Zoey wasn't 'that girl'. The book was to show she wasn’t like that, yet she was written exactly as that, with Parker ‘trying’ to show Zoey's true nature. But the reader can only trust Zoey’s narration, as she is speaking and thinking, not as a side character but the narrator herself.

Zoey = Paige's best friend. Zoey = 'I'm not that type of girl' but she truly is, no matter how many times she thinks it, her behavior has her acting that way when she was above it all in the previous book.

Parker and Luke = younger and older brother, with Parker, Paige's other best friend, who happens to be in love with her, and Luke, the older, college guy who is just a pretty face who treats his brother like crap.

Zoey and Luke were the male and female equivalents of one another. But I could forgive it in Luke because 1) he wasn't the narrator, and 2) call a spade a spade – he never pretended to be anything but a player. Zoey lied to herself about who she was, with everyone doing the same.

I was looking forward to reading the Zoey who helped Ben and Paige, the girl with high standards who didn’t date high school boys because they were immature and only saw her looks and popularity, not the real Zoey. She was rational and kind, not me. me. me. and blind. In this book, Paige and Ben make a reappearance, and Ben asks Zoey if Luke meets her 'high standards'. But, with how Luke was written, for Zoey to like Luke means she has absolutely NO standards or self-esteem/respect/worth.

Girls who fall for guys like Luke need validation from a guy, instead of knowing their true worth, and are preyed upon by the Lukes of the world, until they mature. Zoey deserved more than to be portrayed as thus. She was written the opposite in the previous book, and upset how her friends saw her that way. Like the girl who took Zoey's seat at the restaurant – any girl with an ounce of self-respect would have left Luke.

Guys are not worth fighting over. They don't choose you – you choose them. If they don't want you back, walk away, because he's not the right guy for you. Stealing a guy from another girl means he's not worth it, for any girl. He's no prize. Zoey didn't want to be seen as a prize, yet she treated Luke as one.

All women deserve more, and it’s our job as women to teach the youngest of our gender the signs. The false smile and a bite of attention is not flattery – it’s disrespect.

This is where the adult reader comes into play. Luke isn't a bad guy, IF he ever grows up. Boys like Luke only exist because of girls like Zoey, so I couldn’t respect her character, even with the small emotional evolution, because girls who know who they are don't fall for Lukes. I would have LOVED Zoey if, from word-one, she thought Luke was a joke, treated him as a friend/brother, and told him to grow up.

If Luke gets a book, I can guarantee his girl won't be a hanger-on-er, so why write Zoey like that? No one respects that type of person (character). I can't respect Parker for even liking a girl who wanted his brother. Gross.

Luke’s charm is like currency – if girls didn’t buy the falsity he’s selling, he won’t be a commodity anymore and I wish parents, mothers, authors would show this. Because that type of guy is created by the same foolish people they ‘hurt’, and they grow up into men who hurt many.

The women are the problem – we create the monster by feeding into it.

Writing Zoey as saying she isn’t that type of girl, yet having her behave so… quote: “yesterday she had flirted with him shamelessly... … like the groupies she despised… she’d done her hair and makeup both yesterday & this morning, in hopes he’d notice.” “Oh, my God. She was finally alone with Luke. Maybe she should have done more to her hair.”

If I had a daughter and she thought like that (which is my problem with the book itself). You can’t get more shallow than that, the very shallow her BFF (Paige) promised Zoey wasn’t in the previous book.

To quote Parker: "Sad" Zoey's behavior was 'sad'. As in, it's too bad a woman will debase herself in such as manner.

To want someone to like you on your looks instead of who you are is the very definition of shallow, exactly who you’d get in return. As an adult, I feel this perpetuates the cycle with the young adult reader, how only your looks matter. Then there is the manipulative, game-playing of using the best guy friend to trap his brother with jealousy, when said friend is in love with you.... and you love him too, and his brother, but only because he's a hot chick-magnet.

The author can write every character in the series to be Zoey's biggest fans, but when her inner monologue reads as such, there is nothing you can do to make me believe it. “Is this how guys back home felt when they tried to talk to her? If so, she could develop some sympathy for them.” “She needed to fight fire with fire. She’d ask Parker to go on that sleigh ride and they’d have a blast, and tell Luke he missed all the fun.”

But Zoey's NOT 'that girl'.

In the previous book, Zoey didn’t like how people judged her on her looks, money, and popularity, never wanting to get to know the ‘real’ her (which the reader never sees via Zoey, only the other character's narration) but she is doing the same to Luke, wanting him on looks and charm alone, wanting him to pick her over other girls, as if that is the value of her worth.

To be quite honest, my dislike on how Zoey was written was making me close to DNFing an angsty, love-triangle book I’d generally enjoy, when I was absolutely engrossed with the previous book. It all just felt forced (the entire storyline. Zoey, who everyone wants to be with, didn't think Parker wanted her? But wants Luke too for an ego-boost). I can’t empathize with a girl who is crying about absolutely nothing like it’s the end of the world. Zoey literally had no problems whatsoever, no personality, so her being upset about every little thing is beyond shallow in reaction. She would literally burst out bawling throughout the novel.

The author can ‘tell’ me Zoey is down-to-earth all through the book via the other characters, but Zoey ever wanting Luke romantically counters that, because her falling for his fake charm proves she’s attracted to bright and shiny, and nothing of real value, exactly who her classmates think her to be. I understand the triangle premise demands this, and teenagers fall prey to this daily, but just once I’d like to see a girl who thinks with her brain and heart, not with her eyes and status. And I thought that was the Zoey I was going to get – not as advertised.

While, no doubt, young adults would eat this book up, I wouldn't allow my imaginary teenage daughter to read it. The first book, yes. This book? No. I wouldn't risk my daughter modeling herself after Zoey.

All of the issues are due to miscommunication and silly, childish, beneath their age group mentality, 18-20 year-olds. Parker deserved a more mature friend in Zoey, but if they were such good friends, he should have at least told her what Luke was playing. (Would you allow your BFF to be lied to, played, and bet upon, even if it's by your brother? Actually, especially if it's by your brother, someone she trusts? NFW, and if you do, you're a crappy friend. Why not say Luke was with a bunch of girls when he said he was with the guys? SMH) No matter the outcome, I wasn’t pleased, because it involved Zoey, who needed to grow up in more ways than one, whether friendship or relationship, because Parker was blind and Zoey thought herself different than she behaved/acted/reacted – the ultimate of unreliable narrators.

I will read the next in the series and more by this author. But this installment of the series was most definitely not for me.

Young adult age-range: 13+.

Also Available in the Finding Perfect Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check our Finding Perfect post.

Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most critical job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

Connect with Kendra

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Defying Gravity (Finding Perfect #2) by Kendra C. Highley to read and review.

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