Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda KenneallyDefending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #7
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on July 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
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three-stars

There are no mistakes in love.

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?

Defending Taylor isn’t my favorite of the Hundred Oaks series, and I think that will be the case for most people. The start was rough. Ultimately, Defending Taylor did when me over, but it took a while.

Defending Taylor‘s most similar to Things I Can’t Forget, in that many readers are likely to find Taylor insufferable. She’s a spoiled rich girl, and she’s whiny for a lot of the book. Taylor mad a bad choice that got her expelled from her fancy private school and knocked her chances of getting into dream college, Yale, off track. Now she’s stuck living at home, playing on a crappy soccer team, breaking up with her boyfriend who didn’t stand up for her when the shit went down, and hating how disconnected she feels from everything and everyone.

Taylor made a really stupid decision. View Spoiler » Lying about the thing that got her expelled, despite her semi-noble reasons, throws her life into chaos. Of course, she only took the fall because she expected her senator father to bail her out of trouble, but he doesn’t want his kids getting that bratty and spoiled, so he didn’t.

Kenneally seems finally to be making a minor stab at racial diversity, with mixed results. There’s a hot hispanic guy who shows up twice, but he’s a landscaper there solely to be a bit too pushy in hitting on Taylor, and it’s pretty awful. However, there’s a black man in the alumni office at Yale, and that was much better. For the most part, though, Hundred Oaks remains the whitest and straightest place in all the land. Writing seven white, het couples in a row makes a statement.

All the character arcs do end up being very effective. Taylor learns that lying is stupid. That plot wasn’t my favorite, but I did think it was a bit more organic than sometimes when this device is used. She didn’t come clean because that would make things even messier in the long run. I also appreciated the way her lie resolved with Ezra.

There have been so many contemporary romances about the daughters of politicians (notably The Unexpected Everything and Interference). Though Defending Taylor treads the exact same ground here, with the pain of the media circus and being dropped from publicity for a mis-step, Taylor’s dad’s a bit more sympathetic from the start than most of these politician dads. Even at the lowest points in their relationship, he texts her good luck for her soccer games and will go to bat for her, if not always in the way that she wants.  View Spoiler » Her mom’s barely there, however.

Taylor’s relationship with the soccer team works too. The mean girl doesn’t get a great arc, but she also doesn’t come off irredeemable. I couldn’t care less about Taylor’s private school friends, though. One of the nicer elements of Taylor’s personality comes through here: she really does try her ass off. She stands up to bullies and fights to get what she wants. You really get the sense that who she is at the start of the book isn’t the normal Taylor at all. She just reacted poorly to a crisis and then stuck to it. Her self-loathing became a more general loathing, and it wasn’t pretty.

Her relationship with Ezra I do like a whole lot, as it’s a bit trope-defying. They avoid a few things that would have been mega drama fights in other books by actually communicating with one another. I also like the not-quite-fights they have while trying to convince one another to fight for what they actually want, not the family legacy. They’re also really cute together, and I’m also a fan of relationships that move at a non-standard pace physically. Kenneally remains on point with the sex positivity.

Defending Taylor may not be my favorite Kenneally, but I appreciate the risk with a less overtly likable heroine. A lot of readers could be lost in that first 100 pages before Taylor starts acknowledging some truths about herself.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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