WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAINER SPOILERS.
Emma Preston has always had the best life could offer. Her mom is a former supermodel and her dad is a rock star and she has never wanted for anything money could buy. But that doesn’t mean her life is perfect. Her dad is always off touring with his band and her mother cares more about becoming the biggest socialite than she does about being a parent. Jesse is Emma’s opposite in every way. He has lived his entire life in a trailer park with a single mother and works part time after school at a tattoo parlor to help make ends meet. He gets a scholarship to the snooty rich kids school and his mom forces him to go. Suddenly his world and Emma’s world collide and things will never be the same for either of them. Emma knows that her mother would never accept Jesse in their lives and Jesse knows that he has no place with Emma, but they can’t seem to fight their attraction to each other. Can they find a way to make it work or is their relationship doomed to fail before it even starts?
Emma is a character that I liked in the beginning. I’m not normally one to sympathize with the poor little rich girl plight. Sorry, I spent too much of my childhood worrying how my parents would make sure the bills got paid to believe that money can’t truly buy happiness. But Emma quickly won me over with her sweet disposition and the way she treated Jesse. Despite her upbringing, she isn’t snotty or uppity or of that I’m better than you because I have money attitude. She actually seems relatively normal. She doesn’t flaunt her money. In fact, we don’t see her spent any throughout the entire novel. There is nary a shopping trip to be found. I become slightly irritated with her as we get deeper into the novel. She seems a bit naive, which is probably to be expected in a household with that much money, but it was irritating none the less. There is a scene towards the end where she is talking about moving out from her mother’s house after she turns 18 and flat out expecting her father to pay rent for a place for her to live. Basically, I was jealous. Insanely jealous. I want that life. The one where bills aren’t a worry. The one where you know if you fail at life, Mommy and Daddy can easily pick up the pieces and pay your debts. She was also a bit…quick? Emotionally, she does everything quickly. She’s quick to fall for Jesse. The minute Jesse suggests a tattoo, she instantly wants it (and then they go do it). She puts no real thought into the consequences of those actions. The tattoo especially bugged me. You are going to let this boy you’ve only known for a few weeks put a permanent mark on your skin? He’s not even legally authorized to do that. If he fucks you, well sucks to be you! They literally discuss the idea of a tattoo and then immediately leave to go do it.
As for Jesse, well, I’m still not sure how I feel about him. On one hand, his situation is much easier for me to relate to. Though I didn’t come from a single mother household, I know the trailer park life. I lived in a trailer park until right before I turned 18, so I see through his eyes pretty clearly. But the boy was cocky and it bugged me. He was too sure of himself for a 17 year old. Really, both characters felt a bit older. If there weren’t multiple scenes in a high school, I would never have realize that this was about teenagers. Well, except the uber immature moments. Like when Jesse’s mom falls in love and wants to move away with him and Jesse flat out refuses to acknowledge that she might just feel the same way about her beau that he feels about Emma. That’s not possible, right? Or maybe his refusal to even treat the guy with an ounce of respect. He’s whole attitude felt a bit off.
Then there was Ally, Jesse’s friend and the sister to Alan. She was the point in the semi love triangle. It’s apparent from minute one that the reason she hates Emma is because she wants Jesse for herself. There is no other reason for her to possible hate Emma so much so quickly. Besides, the sister falling for her brother’s best friend is the oldest story in the book. Of course she has a thing for him. But idiot Jesse has no idea. And no one feels the need to clue him in. Not Emma once she figures it out, not Alan who has to fucking know that his sister is crushing on his best friend, and definitely not Ally herself. But Ally creates that triangle that we all know I hate so much. From the synopsis of book 2, the triangle is worse there.
Starting off, I was hooked on this pretty quickly. I’m a sucker for contemporary romances lately, regardless of what genre they adhere to. Romance, young adult, new adult, erotica, I’ll read it all. I’ll devour it so quickly that even I’m a little shocked when it’s over. Rich girl meets poor boy and romance ensues? GIMME! This will be perfect. BUT, it wasn’t. The closer I got to the end, the more I knew it wasn’t going to end well. There wasn’t enough time to wrap this up in a positive way. Oh boy, was I right on the money there. This does not end well. This ends pretty terribly. Had it ended better, it probably would have gotten 3 stars instead of 2. But it does not. At the end, Jesse and Emma are broken up and Jesse is moving away with his mother. All because they fought it then Ally made it look like he slept with her. To top that off, Jesse loses Alan as a friend because Ally runs home and tells him they slept together and then he kicked her out. That tells you what kind of friend Alan is pretty quickly, if he won’t even hear Jesse out.
My other comment is that this was written pretty graphically for a young adult novel. It was probably the most explicit YA I’ve ever read. DI like smut as much as the next girl, but I feel a bit weird listening to it about teenagers. It’s not really a bad thing, just very unexpected. Especially when I’m listening to parts of it with my husband when the naughty bits start. That was kinda funny. He ran from the room and kept screaming so he couldn’t hear anything. He said reading it was one thing, but listening to someone read it to you was just too weird.
Even though this ended terribly, I’m not sure I want to read the next one. The summary makes it seem like there is a lot more love triangle drama ahead and I don’t know if I want to subject myself to that when I’m not swoony over Jesse as I assume I was supposed to. He just seems like a weird juxtaposition of mature and immature and I can’t say I’m a huge fan of him. Emma can’t hold the story up on her own, so I’m undecided if I’ll give the next book a try yet or not. Time will tell!
This was my first Kirsten Leigh and I’m not unhappy with her performance. She actually does a pretty awesome job narrating the two separate points of view. Her Jesse voice is noticeably different than her Emma voice. She even does special accents for the parent characters, adding a slight southern twang to Jesse’s mom and a more extreme accent for Emma’s mom. She reads at a nice pace, giving you just the right amount of time to absorb her words before moving on. She enunciates pretty clearly as well. Trust me, there is nothing worse than a narrator who doesn’t enunciate properly and you don’t understand them. Or better yet, the ones who completely mispronounce words.
You’d think that they would know how to properly pronounce the words since it is part of their job, but it isn’t always the case. There is none of that here though! Kirsten does an excellent job and I will definitely make sure to check out some of her other work.
****Thank you to Esther Bochner at Audible for providing me with an audio copy in exchange for an honest review****