|I absolutely love this cover!|
Winner Take All by Laurie Devore (336 pages)
Overview: Nell is always perfect. Because she has to be. She has to prove that she's just as good, no, better, than her rich peers at Prep. She has to prove she's just as strong and smart as the boys. Her mother expects nothing less. This gives Nell a very strong need to win everything as a way of taking control, but after her junior year, her life takes an unexpected turn when rich boy and rival Jackson Hart waltzes into her life in unexpected ways. He alters so much of her world, that she almost loses everything trying to get it back. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 I absolutely loved Nell. She's intelligent, strong willed, and hungry. She'll stop at nothing to get what she thinks she wants. And when she can't have control, she has to grapple with her anxiety and panic attacks. Nell makes a lot of mistakes; she's painfully human. But that's what makes her shine from the pages. That's what made me identify with her so strongly.
I also really enjoyed how complex the other characters are in the book. Jackson, her hate-love sometimes boyfriend, is like a funhouse mirror to Nell. He feels entirely out of control, and he hates it. But instead of holding on tighter, clocking more hours studying and at the gym, he gets drunk at parties. He throws himself into his own spirals that he can own to not admit to the other chaos in his life. They understand each other's intensity, and that's why their so drawn to one another.
Nell's two best friends, twins Lida and Taylor, have a harder time getting it. While Taylor and his deep need to fix things has always felt put on the outside by Nell's strong facade, Lida has ridden every one of Nell's unpredictable waves. She doesn't understand Nell and her need for control, but most people don't. I loved getting to read about their friendship.
Plot: 5 Wow! I've read quite a few books so far this year, and, until this one, I had yet to be head over heels impressed. This one has done it! The story had so many twists and turns to keep me interested, and the author's use of foreshadowing left me in awe of how well plotted the whole novel was. Devore is able to tell a story that leaves the reader surprised at the end of every chapter and maintain an entire cast of strong characters.
Writing: 5 I'm still amazed with this book. Nell's voice comes through crystal clear in the first person prose. I felt like I was inside the story the entire time, not just reading about these people. There's just so much that I love about the book, it's hard to organize my thoughts. Most of all, I think this book shines for Devore's ability to speak to so many things at once and do it all well. She hits on issues like anxiety, feminism, and control while also telling an epic love-family-friendship story. I will definitely be checking out this author's other book.
I'm super excited to be bringing back some early looks at books over the next few months as well as a few other new things, so look out for those!