Review: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Series: Wild Cards #1
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: 14+
Pages: 288 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
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?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Simone Elkeles is among the authors that made me the prolific reader than I am today. I loved her PERFECT CHEMISTRY series and ate up nearly every other book she's written, so I was beyond eager when I found out that she was writing a new series. This book had sizzling chemistry and even had me laughing out loud a few times. Elkeles never fails to deliver. But, with that in mind, this book can't live up to her others.

I suppose my biggest issue was that I got a huge CATCHING JORDAN vibe from this. Female football player dates awesome QB, they break up because the QB sucks, best friends are these awesomely hilarious guys from the team. Sure, that's the extent that the plots were similar, but I couldn't shake the similarities. While I know this was nowhere near intentional and I think Elkeles' execution was beyond amazing and more complex than the aforementioned book, it was hard to shake the familiarity of some scenes. I suppose Elkeles was just a little late to the scene in this case. But when you're drawing parallels in your mind, even inadvertently, it tends to take away from the book.

However, once I got over that, I really loved this book. Derek's delicious. He's wickedly hilarious and sarcastic, good-looking, and he's just trying to figure it all out. He's got a good heart buried deep and it shines through when he takes the fall for all of his friends at boarding school and when he helps out with his five year old step-brother, Julian. Oh, and he's a health food nut. Ashtyn's a warrior princess that can't live without junk food, there's no other way to put it. The first scene we meet her she's wielding a pitchfork and ready to go to town on intruders. How amazing is that? The side cast of characters wasn't as strong as the main characters. While Ashtyn's football buddies added a lot of comic relief to the story, Landon was just a sucky person. I understand that his characterization was supposed to be that way and he was supposed to switch teams because he was jealous and didn't make captain, but he had the maturity of a two year old since he was constantly trying to ruin Ashtyn every chance he got. It frustrated me. But Derek's long-lost grandmother added much more comic relief to the story and she was able to get Ashtyn's detached father, Gus, and her ditzy older sister in line. All in all, a diverse cast of characters that I enjoyed for the most part.

While the romance was amazing because that's always where Elkeles excels, I often found myself frustrated with the characters. Their tension and fighting was cute at times and flat-out annoying other times since they both made mountains out of mole hills. They would knowingly say something to get under the other's nerves and ruin absolutely everything and make the fighting go on a few more chapters before some kind of reconcilement. It bugged me, the obliviousness of it all. It almost seemed that Elkeles did it this way to further the plot. When they weren't fighting I was truly rooting for them under they just did something stupid. And if you ask me, they did something stupid a lot.

Lastly, I think the synopses is slightly misleading. I was under the impression that Derek was going to saunter in and save the day with his awesome football skills. And while the synopses is true and such a thing eventually happens, it takes nearly 90% of the book for it to happen. The rest of the book was them arguing and fighting about relationships and being snarky with each other. I just felt slightly misled because what I considered to be an integral part of the plot didn't come into play until a time of desperation near the end of the book where there were a few scenes out of a sappy romance movie. Is Elkeles known for ending her books like that? Yes, but sometimes they always make me cringe and put a smile on my face simultaneously. Derek could have made this a lot easier for himself and Ashtyn if he was just honest. I understand that his necessity to keep his past a secret was personal, believable, and complex, but, gah, the frustration!

In the end, I enjoyed this book and I'm eagerly anticipating book two. I'm hoping that book two continues Ashtyn and Derek's story because it's truly only just begun instead of her swapping main character's the way she did in her PERFECT CHEMISTRY series. This is a great read for fans of CATCHING JORDAN and DAIRY QUEEN. Overall, this was a quick read that put a smile on my face as a huge football fan and romance lover, but I can't help feel slight disappointment. I love Elkeles and everything she's written, so it's upsetting to see I was so nit-picky with this one. I wanted to absolutely head-over-heels love it, and I just couldn't bring myself to do so. I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

3 stars


Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange for an honest review of this book picked up at BEA 2013.


  1. This is a webseries! Not sure if you've seen it yet, but they already posted the first episode online. It's kinda campy and cheesy, but I'll probably still be watching the whole thing bc I like campy things ;D I think Krista felt the same way about this book as you did.

  2. I really loved Perfect Chemistry too. I have to say the synopsis of Wild Cards didn't really draw me in, but because it is Simone Elkeles I will probably end up giving it a try. I haven't read Catching Jordan, so I am glad that I won't be constantly comparing the two. Thanks for this honest review! I will probably start reading it with slightly lower expectations.