Monday, 25 August 2014

'Rival' by Penelope Douglas

Considering how big New Adult novels have become in the past few years, it's surprising that I've never actually read any. I'm a huge fan of Young Adult as you can probably tell by the books I tend to review but I've just never made that step up to New Adult. But recently, the lovely people at Piatkus offered me the chance to read an advance copy of 'Rival' by Penelope Douglas, and always up for a new reading experience, I accepted.

'Rival' is the second novel in the 'Fall Away' series but can be read as a stand-alone novel. I haven't read the first title in the series but I didn't struggle to follow the plot of this sequel. Penelope Douglas did a great job of recapping earlier events in a way that wasn't too obvious but also didn't leave the reader feeling lost. Which is something a lot of authors fall short on when writing a series of books.

So what's the book about?

Madoc and Fallon are step brother and sister. Forced together by their parents marriage when they were both teenagers, they pretty much hated each other. Madoc resented his new gold-digging step mother and her daughter and Fallon couldn't stand Madoc's jerky, bullying behaviour. But something happened between them when they were sixteen, something that ripped them apart, saw Fallon move out of the family home to a boarding school and caused her to stay away for three years.

But now she's back. And everything is going to change.

With Fallon back in town for the summer before college, Madoc's father tells him he has to stay away, crash at a friend's house and leave his step-sister to her own devices. But Madoc has never been one to follow the rules. The last thing he wants to do is give Fallon more space, not after she walked out of his life in the middle of the night without even a note to say why.

But Fallon has an agenda. She's back in town to get revenge, to get even with her mother and step-father, and most importantly, her step-brother, her rival, her ex-lover.

That's right. When they were sixteen, Fallon and Madoc fell hard and fast for each other. Madoc was Fallon's first, her only. But everything went wrong when their parents found out and she was banished to boarding school, away from the one person she felt safe around.

When secrets and lies are exposed and the truth is revealed to all involved, will Madoc's resentment and Fallon's mistrust remain or will they find their way back to each other? I'm not into spoilers so I'm not going to tell you. But I will say that it's a rollercoaster ride of emotions as the two love-damaged teens try to navigate their confused and conflicting emotions.

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting to like this book. I guess I went into it with misconceptions of what New Adult is. I was expecting all sex and no plot. I thought the characters would be flat and boring. I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, there was a LOT of sex (was it too much? I'm not sure. I mean the book is about randy teenagers!) but there was also a great plot, with some interesting twists and turns that had me worrying that things wouldn't turn out the way I hoped they would.

And the characters? They were pretty awesome. Fallon was so different to a lot of the female characters in YA fiction. She was smart and spunky, oozed attitude and yet had a vulnerable side that she kept hidden. And Madoc? I'll admit that he had me feeling all kinds of emotions. To begin with I hated him, really couldn't stand the guy. But as I read on, especially in the chapters written in his voice, I began to understand him, to see why he acted the way he did. And by the end of the novel, well, I actually liked the guy.

The supporting cast were pretty cool too. I guess that has a lot to do with the fact that this novel is part of a series. From what I can gather, Tate and Jared were the focus of the first book, 'Bully' and maybe that's why they're so fully formed, so striking and present within the novel. Whatever the reason, it was interesting to care so much about characters that weren't the primary focus of a novel's plot.

'Rival' gripped me the whole way through, kept me up reading late at night, fighting sleep to know what happened next. I've been left with an urge to read the first book in the series, just so that I can spend some more time with the characters. I'll definitely be looking out for the next title in the series when it's released.

I think this would be a great book for older teenagers (16+) and even twenty-something girls who want a quick read with plenty of steam. Part of me feels as though I'd be reluctant to let my (hypothetical) teenage daughter read it but at the same time, I don't think there's much in there that teens can't read in any magazine or watch on TV. Maybe that's one of the good points of New Adult fiction. It gives teens a glimpse into the gritty reality of life, the kind of thing that polished Hollywood TV shows just don't portray.

At first, I planned to give this novel 3/5 but after writing this review I've realised that it actually deserves more than that. I think I was holding back on the rating because it wasn't "literary fiction", wasn't an important book if that makes sense. But why should that matter? And so, I'm giving 'Rival' a well earned 4/5.

The Kindle edition of 'Rival' goes on sale tomorrow. Buy it on amazon here

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