Two teenagers, each struggling with past romantic failures, haltingly fall in love in this YA romance.
The withdrawn, cerebral teen Fletcher Scott has never been the center of attention, which is fine with him. When he takes a summer civics course, Haley Stevenson, the “Princess of Juniper Falls” and the cheerleading captain at Juniper Falls High, seeks his help on an important class project. She aspires to join the cheer squad at the University of Central Florida, but her unspectacular grades could prove to be a prohibitive barrier. The studious, responsible Fletcher could be her ticket to a higher grade. Initially, their personalities clash; at one point, for example, Fletcher considers Haley the “world’s most infuriating girl.” But slowly, romantic feelings begin to develop between them—first, callow physical infatuation, and then something deeper. However, both are wary about taking things further, due to past romantic betrayals. To make matters worse, Fletcher zealously guards a few secrets: he’s plagued by a serious medical condition and also has an unusual weekend job that he wants to remain unknown. But he and Haley both share an implacable desire for more. Fletcher wants to go from being a benchwarmer on the junior varsity hockey team to an active player on the varsity one, and he’s helped by two seasoned players. Haley not only has college-cheerleading dreams but also aspires to transcend the limitations of being a popular girl. This is the second installment of Cross’ (Off the Ice, 2017) Juniper Falls series, and although some of the characters and plotlines from the previous novel reappear here, the plot is comprehensible as a stand-alone. The author is remarkably well attuned to the adolescent psyche, delivering teenage dialogue with impressive authenticity. She also artfully combines serious and lighthearted subject matter, adroitly juxtaposing the comic goofiness of high school life with its moments of high drama. The plot develops slowly, and as a result, the romantic tension between Fletcher and Haley isn’t always as strong as it could have been. Overall, however, this is an uncomplicated and pleasantly agreeable tale.
A companionable and realistic rendering of teen courtship.