Thursday, March 24, 2016

Waiting on the Sidelines (Waiting on the Sidelines #1) by Ginger Scott

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Nolan Lennox had things figured out. Named after a baseball legend, she enjoyed being the Tomboy, her closet filled with her brother’s hand-me-downs, cut-off jeans and soccer shorts. But when her first trip to high school results in a broken heart from the first boy to ever make her heart flutter and cruel words from an older girl she once thought a family friend, Nolan starts to question the very person she thought she was and wonders if her humble upbringing can compete with the afforded luxuries of her privileged peers.

Throughout the next four years, Nolan struggles to maintain herself throughout her path of discovery, learning just how cruel teenagers can be through the pressures of underage drinking, sexuality and class. And despite how life seems to continue to work against her, she still manages to listen to her heart, falling deeper and deeper for the guy the entire town adores, even if he only sees her as a friend. Can Nolan strike a compromise between her own integrity and the boy she loves? And can she make him notice her before it’s too late?

Reed Johnson came to Coolidge High School with a lot of fanfare. The son of a hometown football legend and the brother of a local football hero, Reed wore all the pressures of carrying a town without hope into the spotlight. Thankfully, he had the talent to back it up. But when he meets a girl who makes him think twice about exactly what being a hero means, he starts to wonder if following in his brother’s footsteps might be all wrong.

Nolan Lennox was everything that was opposite of expected. She didn’t flirt, she didn’t drink and she didn’t sleep around. Nothing about her was easy, but something about her made Reed want to try harder. Though she didn’t look the part, she seemed to be spending a lot of time in Reed’s thoughts, and he wondered if she could be the one who made it all worthwhile. But could Reed handle letting her down? And would breaking her heart break him beyond repair?

Waiting on the Sidelines explores young love to its fullest, exposing how real young heartbreak and passion is and how important it is to discover yourself and hold onto your own identity. The story follows two young characters as they deal with mature situations, including the prevalence of bullying and promiscuity in today’s high school setting. Ultimately, Waiting on the Sidelines is a story of hope, honesty and those powerful, first true loves—the ones worth holding onto at any cost.

I’m still on a high from reading this amazingly well-crafted story of a high school crush that evolves into friendship and then into something more.

It occurred to me as I read along that many of the YA novels I’ve read in the past have zeroed in on a specific aspect of that character’s life and everything else is just background noise. Waiting on the Sidelines works with a different formula. It follows Nolan and Reed over the course of their entire high school career. In doing so, Scott is able show their growth and the shedding of their innocence. She subtly introduces several high school-age themes from self-esteem issues to anxiety to peer pressure to bullying to sexual awakening to drinking and finally self-identity. The story develops organically and I really felt as if I went through four years of high school watching these two blossom.

Nolan is perhaps now one of my favourite YA heroines. While she may crush after the guy, she’s not entirely defined by it. She still has other things happening in her life that make up who she is – athletics, studies, family and friends. During this time when many teens are confused and exploring who they are, her core principles are intact. Believe me, she’s challenged a lot. She stands up for herself several times, including to Reed when he’s crossed the line. She’s strong — not perfect — and overcomes her shortcomings to be even stronger. This is a heroine I want my teen daughters to read!

And speaking of friends, they’re surrounded by some well-rounded, level-headed friends. The fact that their social circles remain a significant part of the story only enriches it and made me so happy.  It’s also a comfort considering the drama that comes and goes.

Nolan and Reed stumble spectacularly over the years on their way to each other. With the way their tale is spaced out, it allowed me the opportunity to experience all their milestones along with them. The high moments are sweet indeed and the low moments are crushing. This is my seventh Ginger Scott novel and she hasn't failed me yet. I admire her ability to write about real life issues and pull the reader into the journey at hand. I believe it’s because she’s not a narrow-minded writer. She’s always incorporating the bigger picture. In this case, it’s Nolan’s own self-discovery amidst AND outside the chaos of her relationship with Reed. The various themes contained within the story will resonate with many readers and elicit some strong emotions.

If you ask me to name my favourite YA novel, it would be this one. I can’t think of a single thing that I’d change about this story. It’s simply perfect to me.

~ Bel

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