Series: The Ivy Years
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Format: Kindle edition
Genre: Contemporary NA
Reviewed by: Judith
This book is home to the three S’s of New Adult lit: solid writing, sucky situations, and sexy broken hockey players…
Plot: She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead. Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league. Also, he’s taken.
Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands. They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.
But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.
Review: So I’d been hearing about this great new NA series for a while. Readers mentioned it a few times and even heavy NA hitters like Tammara Webber were touting its amazing ability to suck you in and hook you fast. “This is NA at its finest,” they all said. There were also sexy hockey players too and characters with disabilities which made it a far cry from the beautiful norm that’s pushing through NA these days. I decided to take the plunge. I’m glad I did cause Sarina Bowen is a solid writer with a straight forward style that will keep you interested long after the premise gets old and I’ll warn you, it does, cause it’s one we’ve all seen before and can easily guess at the ending.
Corey comes to college at the tail end of a tragedy. She’s lost the use of her legs and as an aspiring hockey player, this is a big blow. She’s shoved in a wheelchair accessible dorm and manages to befriend the other broken hockey player who lives down the hall, Men’s Captain, Adam Hartley. They bond over hockey video games and thinly veiled sexual innuendo but we all know it’s not meant to be since Adam has a–duh duh duh–gorgeous and rich girlfriend whom he adores! Drat. And I promise this is no surprise as you meet and loathe her right away.
As they spend more time together, these two form a bond over the inability to use their legs. This blossoms into a tentative friendship, then a sexual awakening, and finally love. Watching the two characters learn one another as they are in the present and not the perfect versions of themselves they were in the past is well worth it. I really enjoyed that the main characters weren’t some ideal. They were the discarded misfits of their respective classes, both struggling to learn about themselves and about how they can exist in the world now. Even though Adam’s problems were only temporary, it was still great to see a book where the hot/brilliant/uber-talented love interest had a devastating injury that impacts his life and makes him realize some big life truths–mainly that the pretty wheelchair bound girl next door is an acceptable girlfriend over the mean yet pretty shrew he’s dating.
My only real issue with the book is that everything was far too obvious and way too neat and pat – the inevitable bonding of the main characters over their injuries; that Corey would have a crush on the gorgeous hockey player and find herself not good enough for him; [spoiler spoiler] that Adam would finally choose Corey over the vapid gf; that there would be an explosive sexual experience for both of them. I could go on. It wasn’t that this made the book bad or dull or anything, it just didn’t make it novel. Like I stated earlier, this was solid writing. Sarina Bowen knows how to write NA and write it well but I felt like she could have done way more with the story but didn’t. As if she chose to take the easy, more predictable route instead of the edgy one we all know she’s capable of.
In the end I’m giving it a solid 8/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 9. Corey is one of those unique NA characters who is never over the top. She’s a good hockey player who had a run of bad luck and is now stuck in a wheelchair. She’s strong but still fragile, self-doubting yet knows what she wants. I would have loved to see her be even stronger and take control of her life a bit more now that it has changed irrevocably.
How much did I like the love interest: 8. I liked Adam but man was he clueless when it came to his own feelings! How could he stay with a shrew – even a gorgeous and rich one – when he had a true friend and sexy companion in Corey? I prefer my men to be less clueless and more focused on the heroine.
How believable is the plot: 10. This is the sort of story we all know and enjoy. It’s an easy one that pretty much anyone can guess at and you know? That’s ok. There’s no twists or surprises but it is strong and solidly written.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. While she doesn’t push the envelope here with the storyline, Sarina Bowen does write very well. Her style is clean and resonant; she is able to effortlessly produce that sense of longing and cluelessness that envelops a young love. You really root for the characters and even though you know they’ll get their HEA, you’re still sappy and smiley when it all comes together.
How much did I want to keep reading: 8. Again this story wasn’t unique so I never felt the overwhelming urge to finish, finish, finish! But it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously and there were a lot of sexy moments.
Final Score: 8/10.