Book Review: Biggest Flirts (Superlatives #1) by Jennifer Echols

BIGGEST FLIRTS (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

BIGGEST FLIRTS (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Some brilliant person somewhere decided to give one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Echols, the opportunity to write a series of YA books based on senior superlatives. Even if your school didn’t have these titles, you’re probably familiar with them – student-voted awards like “most likely to succeed” and “class clown” that show up in the yearbook every spring. The first of Echols’ Superlatives series, Biggest Flirts, introduces us to Tia and her best friends, Harper and Kaye, who will each be central characters in one of the series’ books.

While incredibly smart and a gifted drummer, Tia is kind of terrified of responsibility, so she runs from it. She also has several older sisters who have not set a very good example for her in terms of healthy relationships, so she eschews the idea of a boyfriend in favor of hook-ups, concluding this is the best way to keep from being hurt by a guy. Enter new student Will, a pale hockey player from Minnesota who says “oven” funny and, at least at first, seems to be looking for the same kind of hook-up as Tia. But what starts as a random hook-up turns into a much more complicated relationship as Tia begins to realize she might actually have feelings for Will.

Biggest Flirts has a bit of a different cadence to it than most YA romantic comedies. Familiar elements are there, but they are jumbled around a bit so the trajectory of the story is a little less obvious. Instead of a gradual will they/won’t they buildup to the inevitable realization that the two main characters should be together, that dynamic is established early in the book, and then readers follow along as both Tia and Will deal with their personal issues that seem to be preventing them from falling into any sort of healthy relationship, as friends or otherwise.

It’s not uncommon for Echols to write her lead characters to be a little difficult. They often clearly have issues that affect their behavior and make them frustrating and lovable all at the same time. Tia definitely makes some bad choices throughout the book, but you also see her gradually making positive changes in her life, which makes it easier to hang with her while she figures things out. I liked that, Will, a character that could have been just another generic hottie, was given some thoughtful backstory to help give him some dimension.

I also really, really appreciated how even though the Harper and Kaye storylines for the future books were set up in Biggest Flirts, their inclusion seemed really natural and integrated well with the main plot. So often in these series books where there isn’t a ton of crossover, the process of hooking the stories and characters together seems obvious and forced. It’s more subtle here, and I liked that I didn’t feel like I was being pulled out of the story for the sake of establishing a connection to future books in the series.

One thing that always stands out to me in Echols’ books is the dialogue – her characters are often smart and witty, but they still talk like real teenagers.  Sure, I might shudder a little bit at seeing the word “selfie,” but I can recognize that it makes sense in context and that teen readers wouldn’t think twice about seeing it…and would probably think twice if they didn’t see words like that occasionally. There’s just enough stuff like this to keep the dialogue timely and relevant without it feeling forced. And the dialogue also really helps establish the relationships between the characters, so you can actually feel a connection between them as opposed to just being told that there is one.

For me there was also an element of nostalgia – much of Biggest Flirts takes place during marching band camp and practice, and after four years as a majorette for my high school marching band I can tell you the descriptions were totally on the nose. While I didn’t feel as strong of an immediate connection with Biggest Flirts as I have with some of Echols’ other romantic comedies (like The One That I Want or The Boys Next Door), I still thoroughly enjoyed my time reading it. It’s so refreshing any time you can read a YA book that is cute and funny but also has some depth and character development, and I really enjoyed the somewhat unique structure of the plot.  If you enjoy YA romantic comedies but are game for some variety, definitely be sure to check out Biggest Flirts and keep an eye out for the rest of Echols’ Superlatives series!

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Top 5: Holiday/Winter Book Recommendations

Top 5 Holiday/Winter Books

It may not officially be “winter” just yet, but the holiday season has kicked into high gear. What’s better to do on a cold, gloomy day than cozy up on the couch and read a book? Below are a few of my favorite winter and holiday-themed young adult novels to help get you in the spirit Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Playing Dirty’ (Stargazer #2) by Jennifer Echols

Playing Dirty (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Playing Dirty (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

I usually stick to young adult fare (more on that later), but I’ll always make an exception for one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Echols. While most of Echols’ books to this point have been young adult, her new-ish Stargazer series is adult romance – something I don’t normally read, which is probably important to know when it comes to my thoughts on the second book in the series, Playing Dirty. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Dirty Little Secret’ by Jennifer Echols

Dirty Little Secret (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Dirty Little Secret (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Country music is apparently having a moment. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that I’ve been DVRing Nashville every week and was recently possessed to download an album of Diamond Rio’s greatest hits. Add to that list Jennifer Echols’ newest book, Dirty Little Secret, which takes place in Nashville and features a gifted teenage fiddle player relegated to secretively performing at the mall while her younger sister (and former performance partner) is groomed to become a huge country star. Continue reading

My Top 5 YA Book Boyfriends

From "Abyss of the Disheartened" (Image Credit: Heather Landis)

From “Abyss of the Disheartened” (Image Credit: Heather Landis)

If you’re not familiar with the term “book boyfriend,” it’s generally used to describe fictional characters who, if they actually existed, you would totally have a major crush on. I happen to read mostly young adult, and it’s probably kind of creepy for an actual adult to refer to a bunch of fictional 16-year-olds as “book boyfriends,” so let’s think of it this way: these are characters who, if they actually existed, teenage me would totally have a major crush on. And as an added bonus, they all come from awesome books that I highly recommend! Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Levitating Las Vegas’ by Jennifer Echols

Levitating Las Vegas (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Levitating Las Vegas (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Levitating Las Vegas was an interesting experience for me. As a Jennifer Echols fan who has read all her previous books, I felt like I had some idea of what to expect. While in some ways those expectations were met, in other ways this book was a (not necessarily unwelcome) departure for Echols. Continue reading

An Interview with ‘Star Crossed’ Author Jennifer Echols

Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols

Star Crossed (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

It’s no secret here at The Daily Quirk that Jennifer Echols is one of my absolute favorite authors. With four books coming out in the next year and plenty more on the agenda after that, I can only assume she is one incredibly busy lady.

Her upcoming projects include her first published adult novel, Star Crossed (available today), its follow-up, Playing Dirty (October 2013), new adult paranormal novel Levitating Las Vegas (May 6, 2013), and young adult romantic drama Dirty Little Secret (July 15, 2013).

A huge thank you to Jennifer for taking the time to answer some of my questions about Star Crossed and her other upcoming projects! Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Star Crossed’ by Jennifer Echols

Star Crossed

Star Crossed (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Based off my love of young adult novels, you may be surprised to learn that I am actually not a teenage girl. The thing is, I just have a hard time finding adult fiction that interests me as much as YA. I was extremely excited to check out Star Crossed, the adult fiction debut of one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Echols. I figured if anybody could write an adult novel that I would enjoy, it would be her. I was not disappointed. I don’t necessarily want this review to be a comparison of Star Crossed to Echols’ young adult books, because that really has nothing to do with whether it’s worth reading. Unfortunately I am human, and humans compare, so I’ll just do my best to keep it to a minimum!

Star Crossed has one of those fantastically fictional premises, as in you know none of this would ever happen as its written but that’s exactly what makes it so engaging to read. The two main characters, Wendy and Daniel, both work in public relations, but for rival firms. Wendy’s dream job is in question after her tough love approach doesn’t go over well with a few celebrity clients. Daniel has amazing job security – his father owns the PR firm he works for – but unlike Wendy, he doesn’t actually enjoy whipping celebrities into shape.

Wendy and Daniel are brought together when Wendy takes one final assignment in Las Vegas to try to save her job. Wendy’s new client is in a rocky relationship with Daniel’s client, and the two must work together to try to save the careers of their young stars. Dealing with young celebrities in Sin City is complicated enough on its own, but things get even more interesting when Wendy and Daniel start getting personal. Add a possible stalker into the mix and suddenly our main characters have an awful lot to deal with in one short week.

This book grabs you by the wrist, takes off, and never lets you look back. The pacing is fast and furious, largely because places that could be considered “slow” spots are filled with witty dialogue and mildly disturbing levels of sexual tension. Parts of this book reminded me a lot of Going Too Far, my favorite YA book by Echols – which is a little weird, since Star Crossed has a totally different vibe overall – but I guess just the idea of the relationship dynamics between the dark, emotionally veiled guy and the outgoing girl with a chip on her shoulder was familiar.

Still, this book is definitely different than Echols’ young adult novels. It’s clear that the target audience was considered throughout the book. Both main characters had issues they were dealing with in their lives, but they tended to have a more mature outlook on them. They weren’t perfect and they still had plenty of learning and growing to do, but there was a level of life experience informing their decisions that you don’t get in YA for obvious reasons (and honestly, you don’t always get it in adult novels either), so it was refreshing not to have a conflict based solely on misunderstandings and miscommunications between characters too inexperienced to know not to take everything at face value.

Of course the content itself is a bit more mature, and there was more of an escapist element to Star Crossed. You read this book and you are not thinking about mundane day-to-day activities or a realistic portrayal of an average 30-ish person. You’re getting a more dramatic and exciting twist on it; a perspective that most people don’t have, but can really enjoy visiting for a few hours. Even with that, the characters and their responses to the various crazy situations they find themselves in are incredibly relatable.

It can be very tricky to write about fame and paparazzi while still keeping a book relatively grounded. It worked well here because it gave a glimpse into the world of celebrities without really getting fully involved. Wendy and Daniel are (essentially) normal people who happen to work with celebrities. Since we stick with their perspectives, it gives a great balance between the larger-than-life celebrity side of the story and the more realistic, character-driven side of the story.

I have been to Las Vegas exactly once, and it was for work, so most of my excitement came from trying to figure out how to get from one end of Fashion Show Mall to the other. The Las Vegas in Star Crossed is a much more happening spot, and I loved how the different facets of Vegas were woven into the narrative without overtaking it. A great setting can really add a unique kind of ambiance to a story, and that was definitely the case here.

Star Crossed showed me that I can, in fact, read and enjoy a book about people my own age as much as I enjoy books about teenagers. I was truly impressed at how my favorite elements of Echols’ young adult work – the strong characters, the quick pacing, the fantastic dialogue – were still present, but it still felt like a totally different type of book overall.  If you enjoy Star Crossed as much as I did, you’ll be happy to learn that it will be followed up with another novel focused on the folks at Wendy’s Stargazer Public Relations firm, Playing Dirty, which will be released in October.­­­ Also, apologies for totally failing at the attempt to avoid YA comparison. All you really need to know is that Star Crossed is good!

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My Top 5: Jennifer Echols Books

Image Credit: Jennifer Echols

Image Credit: Jennifer Echols

I don’t like picking favorites (too much pressure!), but if pressed I would probably name Jennifer Echols as my favorite young adult author. Jennifer has several new books coming out in 2013, including her first adult romantic comedy, Star Crossed, in February, and the new adult paranormal novel, Levitating Las Vegas, in May. In the meantime I thought it would be fun to revisit a few of my favorite Jennifer Echols books while I wait (impatiently) for the new ones! Continue reading

Top 5: Holiday/Winter Book Recommendations

Top 5 Holiday/Winter Books

It may not officially be “winter” just yet, but the holiday season has kicked into high gear. What’s better to do on a cold, gloomy day than cozy up on the couch and read a book? Below are a few of my favorite winter and holiday-themed young adult novels to help get you in the spirit! Continue reading

An Interview with Author Jennifer Echols

Jennifer Echols’ most recent book, Such a Rush, with its perfect balance of mystery and love story, has both readers and critics singing her praises, but it is no big surprise to anyone who has followed her career. Echols remarkable writing talent has won her the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and the devoted following of many readers. With nine  young adult romantic novels under her belt (and more on the way), as well as her first adult romantic novel set to publish, Jennifer Echols is one busy writer! The Daily Quirk is honored she took some time away from writing to share a little bit about herself and what inspires her as a writer with us and our readers.

Read on for the interview!

Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Going Too Far’ by Jennifer Echols

It’s only fair of me to preface this review by admitting this is not the first time I have read Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far. I actually read it for the first time about 2 years ago, when I was sick with the death flu. I loved and devoured every page. At the time I was not writing book reviews, but now that some time has passed I thought it would be fun to revisit this book. I was curious to see if I felt the same about it, plus it’s a great opportunity for me to spread the word about this fantastic book and author. Continue reading