We loved In The Penalty Box when we read it earlier this year and became excited that Rush and Blount were releasing three companion books around the same time.
1. Gutter Girl
McKenna Storm and Jace Rovers couldn’t be more different. In fact, despite knowing each other since Kindergarten, the two haven’t spoken in years. One bump in the hallway changed their whole trajectory, leading to McKenna covering for Jace. Jace writes a fantasy romance book online and is terrified of anyone finding out.
McKenna has never heard of this series, but as soon as she covers for Jace, everyone at school wants to be her friend. This seriously messes with her since McKenna’s goal is to stay invisible. In fact, she even dresses in all black.
Jace needs McKenna to continue pretending and begs her to read the book so she can talk with his fans. As soon as they start spending more time together, they see they’re not so different. And maybe, it doesn’t matter if Goth Girl and Resident Jock are seen in public together.
The premise of a guy who secretly is a super popular writer excited us from the beginning. The characters stood out right away. We appreciated how Rush and Blount tackled McKenna’s tough family situation. She dealt with a bipolar mother who refused to stay on her meds, working a job to help support the family and getting made fun of in school for dressing differently.
Jace is a total sweetheart. He won us over with how he treated both his little sister and McKenna. He felt a lot of pressure living up to everyone else’s expectations, so we appreciated that he learned to leave his comfort zone.
One problem we had was that the minimal conflicts were wrapped up almost instantly. Gutter Girl lacked tension and people pretty much forgave each other right away.
Despite that, we found the story sweet and the characters likable. The writing plot point and learning about Jace’s process left us excited to hear more about his story. It’s pretty cool to get millions of views, especially since the website was based off Wattpad.
If you’re looking for a YA romance with unique characters, check this one out. It’s a quick read and the writing is engaging.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ /⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
2. Project Personality
Hope Chambers has one goal: get into MIT. But when a college counselor says nothing about her stands out, Hope sets out to gain new experiences for her college essay. Enter Landon Watkins: Twin River’s resident party boy and the perfect person to help Hope get out of her comfort zone. Only, Landon is struggling a lot with his grades and home life. Hope swoops into Landon’s life at the right time. She might need some fun, while he needs someone to care about him.
The two never expected to get along so well, but the longer the project goes on for, the closer Landon and Hope become. Can these two opposites make it work or will other factors, such as personal lives and college get in the way?
The second Twin River High book was so cute. Hope’s quirky personality and nerdy shyness had us rooting for her right away. Plus, we loved seeing Hope become more confident along the way. She should be proud of her intelligence.
We were so happy Rush and Blount made Landon have depth. He was so much more than a party boy and had a really difficult family situation. He needed someone willing to listen and take the time to see the real him.
The one problem we had was the few conflicts, which were again, resolved too quickly. We think there needed to be more build up and tension with the characters. Plus, the authors kept referring to MIT as an Ivy league school…it’s not. It made us wonder if they rushed through without doing enough research.
Overall, we found ourselves enjoying Project Personality more than Gutter Girl. The characters were more relatable and engaging.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 /⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
3. Chaos Theory
When a video of Victoria’s breakup in her high school’s cafeteria goes viral on Instagram, she is desperate to recover and get revenge on her ex.
Hollywood YouTube Star Corey Chaos is burnt out. Desperate to escape LA, he strikes a deal with his agent to move to Wisconsin for a month to stay with his family and lay low after a bad story is leaked to the press about him. When Corey arrives, Victoria makes him an offer: serve as her fake boyfriend and in exchange Victoria will give Corey the ultimate high school experience. What could go wrong?
The answer: a lot. Truth be told, this was not our favorite book by Rush and Blount. The pacing was rushed and we felt there was mega insta-love. Corey and Victoria had the makings of a super cute romance, but most of their interactions were cheesy and left us wanting to skip past them. We love a fake dating trope, but Chaos Theory wasn’t for us!
The small town Wisconsin setting and friends could’ve been great, but the story ultimately fell flat. Plus, why would a Hollywood agent live in Wisconsin?