Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kinneally

Defending TaylorWhen her senior year at her prestigious private school comes crashing down on her, Taylor is expelled in disgrace. Covering for her boyfriend, Taylor figured her powerful senator father’s reputation and influence would be enough to help her survive being caught with a backpack full of prescription medication.

Turns out she was wrong.

Now she’s home, forced to go to the Hundred Oaks High School and starting over. She’s got daily visits with her guidance counselor to make sure she’s staying away from the drugs and trying to recover from this huge hit to her goal of getting into Yale and following in the family business.

But what if the life that Taylor had planned out for herself isn’t necessarily the one she wants or needs?

Miranda Kenneally’s latest Hundred Oaks Defending Taylor novel examines this question and gives us a fascinating character study into Taylor and the people who inhabit her life. Taylor’s frustration at her family, her situation and her ex-boyfriend spill over time and again and are well explored. As with Kenneally’s other novels, the characters and situations in the novel feel completely authentic and are well realized. Taylor’s struggle to find her role on her new soccer team is well done, as is her confusion over her feelings for that one boy who broke her heart years before but has suddenly turned back up. Turns out that like Taylor, he’s harboring his own secrets from his family and the two find themselves back in each other’s orbit with feelings beginning to resurface.

As a resident of Middle Tennessee, I love the familiar geographic references peppered throughout Finding Taylor. But what sets Kenneally’s young adult novels apart from the field is that she’s willing to have her characters make choices that have consequences. She’s also willing to not give us the obligatory happy ending with everything wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. The story does allow Taylor, her family and friends to grow a bit, but not everything is magically resolved by the time we get to the last page.

As with Run Annie Run, I found this novel completely captivating and readable. I will warn parents of young adult readers that the teenagers in this novel behave just like typical teens — so, yes they swear, drink and even fool around. There’s nothing here along the lines of your typical bodice ripper romance novel, but I’d say that his one is firmly in the PG-13 zone.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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