Random Inspirations

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Book Review: Stealing Parker

One of the best things about writing for young adults is that I can read the super-fun new books of other YA authors and call it market research–how awesome is that?! But seriously, market research is crucial for writers. It inspires us and helps us to keep up with current trends in our genres of choice. Plus, it’s just plain entertaining.

With that in mind, I’m introducing a new category of my blog, “Readers’ Corner.” In Readers’ Corner, I will review my favorite new books, mostly YA and some NA (i.e. “New Adult,” which is geared toward an audience of 18 to 30 year-olds). Hopefully, Readers’ Corner will help you next time you want a great book to read!

Today’s Readers’ Corner review features the contemporary YA novel Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally.  This is Kenneally’s second book in the Hundred Oaks series, which chronicles the lives and loves of high school students in a small town in Tennessee. Her first novel, Catching Jordan, dazzled me with its fresh plot line, not to mention the humorous honesty of the main character, so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. 

Stealing Parker

Stealing Parker centers around a seventeen year-old, ex-softball-playing, super-smart girly-girl named Parker. She becomes the manager of the boys’ baseball team because Drew, her best guy friend, talks her into it. Parker is incredibly feminine, partially because she likes things like painting her nails and flirting with guys. Mostly, however, Parker’s girliness is a reaction to her mother’s proclamation that she “bats from the left side of the plate,” so to speak. Her mom, an avid softball player, leaves the family to live with her girlfriend, which is social suicide for Parker both at church and at school. After that, Parker’s been out to prove to everyone that she’s not like her mom, hence the overt boy-craziness and her resignation from the softball team.

Parker’s fixation with the opposite sex reaches a whole new level when she falls for Brian Hoffman, the twenty-three year-old coach of the boys’ baseball team. Their late-night interludes in Brian’s truck are strictly PG (thank goodness), and both of them are aware that their relationship can’t be public. The romance with Brian lends a classic, forbidden-love twist to the storyline.

Meanwhile, Parker is struggling with her feelings toward Will (aka. Corndog), the ex-nerd who’s now cool, cute, and, just maybe, into her. She’s confused because of her feelings for Brian, and also because Drew has a crush on Corndog(!), and she doesn’t want to hurt her bestie. Add in a brother who’s been battling substance abuse (nothing hard, thank goodness, although he does drink a whole bottle of Robitussin. I’m guessing it was the DM formula, because plain guaifenesin wouldn’t mess anyone up.), and a dad who’s in total denial of everything, and you’ve got a volatile mix.

Things come to a head when Parker and Corndog are talking in the equipment shed, and Brian discovers them. He makes Corndog leave because the manager can’t be involved with the players, but of course, it’s also because he’s jealous. Then, Parker’s ex-friend Laura discovers Parker and Brian in the equipment shed, and pretty soon the rumors are flying. Naturally, Parker, Brian, and Parker’s dad are called to the principal’s office, and Parker’s dad says there’s no way she’s involved with Brian because she’s going out with Corndog. So, Corndog is summoned to the office to confirm this fact, and he finds out about Brian. Then, Drew discovers that Parker and Corndog were “messing around,” and he’s mad at her, too. On top of it all, Brian resigns and goes MIA.

Without ruining the conclusion for everyone, let’s just say the loose ends are tied up neatly. Naturally, Parker reconciles with her mom when she’s feeling at her lowest low, and, of course, she cleans things up with Drew and Corndog. She figures out her love life, too, because everyone likes a happy ending. 🙂

Overall, I’d give the book 4 and 1/2 stars. Kenneally crafts truly memorable, multi-faceted characters with authentic teen voices, and the plot line was innovative and forward-thinking. Although Parker kisses plenty of boys (and one man–yikes) throughout the book, she is portrayed as a “good Christian girl,” and there is no sexual activity. However, parents might find some mentions of alcohol (in one party scene), drugs (with Parker’s brother), and sexuality (since there are references to having sex, even though Parker doesn’t do it) to be too daring for girls under sixteen. Parker also barely eats anything, and mentions losing thirty pounds (She’s 5’7 and dropped from 140 to 110 pounds), so parents might also be concerned about the implication of eating disorders.

There is an interesting religious undertone to the book; Parker has frequent conversations with God. She even writes Him little messages, which she usually burns or throws out of windows. The hypocrisy and controlling nature of her church (which shunned her mom, and even discouraged her dad from dating a new woman Parker liked) was a little harsh, but probably realistic, because some small-town churches may tend toward that end of the spectrum. So, all in all, an intriguing and unusual read! If you want to check it out, here’s a link to the author’s web page.

http://mirandakenneally.com/

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