REVIEW: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

"Wild Cards" by Simone Elkeles
“Wild Cards” by Simone Elkeles

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain–people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Getting caught wasn’t part of the plan. Pulling off a prank so epic that it’d be talked about for decades was. I’m standing with five of my friends in Headmaster Crowe’s office listening to him rant for the past hour about how our latest prank embarrassed not only him, but the trustees and teachers of this “prestigious boarding school” as well.

“Anyone want to fess up?” Crowe asks.

Jack and Sam are freaking out. David, Jason, and Rich are trying to hold back their laughter. I’ve been called into the headmaster’s office more than a few times since I transferred here, so this is nothing new to me.

—ARC paperback edition

Ashtyn and Derek are two guarded teens thrown together in a straightforward but engaging romance. In witty, dueling first person narratives, football captain Ashtyn and former-football player Derek tumble through love-at-first-sight, complete with on-again off-again summer lust as their egos get in the way.  They’re going to have to learn to open up and trust before they can love.

Derek has a presumably false wrap as a ‘bad boy’: this nice California boy with the Texas drawl spends most of the book cooking healthy meals, watching out for his kid step-brother and doing chores no one asked him to do fixing up the Parker place.  Meanwhile, Ashtyn is focused and motivated, having worked hard to earn her teammates’ respect.  She is a rare blend of heroine who is one of the guys AND one of the girls.  With her mom run out and her dad checked-out, she is her own adult figure, looking up to Katie Calhoun, one of the few female football players on the college level.

The story is sweet, unmarred by too much depth or subplot.  At times, the romance takes a back seat to more interesting tensions (like what’s up with Ash’s boyfriend, Derek’s letter from his grandmother, and how Ash will get to football camp.)  It would have been enjoyable with even less romance, as the family dynamics and drama at the Parker house were intriguing enough to stand on their own.

Readers may be disappointed to learn that the next novel in the series doesn’t follow Derek and Ash, but fear not! They will be around as their friends take center stage.

Appropriate for ages 14+.  Strong language, alcohol use, sexual situations, bullying.  Deals with love, loyalty, finding a place in your family, sportsmanship, and growing past old fears to make a better, stronger future.

If you…

  • Enjoy slow-burn summer romances
  • Are a football guy or gal
  • Like tough but tender leading ladies
  • Have ever fallen for someone you swore you wouldn’t

Contemporary YA romance
Hardcover & Ebook, 342 pages
Published October 1st, 2013 by Walker Books for Young Readers (ISBN0802734375)

(Review copy provided by Katy Hershberger at Walker Books.)

Review by Olivia Hennis, originally published 2/20/2014 on


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s