Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks Series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 5th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)The summary of Defending Taylor from Goodreads:
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
I absolutely love Kenneally’s books. They always make me happy. Coincidentally, I typically have a new one to read when I enter the hospital for my summer stay. They make the three weeks there go by a little quicker, if only for a day. Defending Taylor also has soccer, which I love to watch, so I was even more excited to read.
Everything about Kenneally’s books just makes me smile. They’re overall happy books, but they also are about overcoming some sort of odds. For Taylor, one stupid decision cost both her and her family a lot and she’s trying to rebuild her life and gain her family’s trust back.
She was expelled from her private school after taking the fall for her ex-boyfriend after a bag of Adderall was found in their possession. She thought her father’s name would protect her, but he refused to let her use his name as an advantage. She’s now enrolled at Hundred Oaks. She’s new and has no one to call a friend. Her high achieving standards don’t mean much at the public school and she’s an outsider the soccer team doesn’t really want.
Kenneally made a note at the end of the book regarding Taylor’s determination to be in clubs, the captain of the soccer team, and being one of the best in school. It’s hard, in today’s world, to understand that achievement isn’t the only path to success. For Taylor, when everything she had worked for was taken from her, she had nothing to fall back on. She didn’t full enjoy life enough to understand that they was always going to be something else to fall back onto. I loved that through the development of the novel, she came to understand that test scores and achievements don’t define a person. They are certainly a part of who she is, but they do not make up her entire character.
I also liked that there was an undercurrent of the pressure teens now face. Taylor tried Adderall so she could stay awake and continue to do school work long after she should have quit for the night. It didn’t go well for her. I don’t think all people go to this extreme, though some do, but there’s always that pressure.
I had to drop out of college because I felt so much pressure I basically had a meltdown. I was always a good student, but trying to be a good student, make friends, be social, and try to keep myself healthy drained me. On top of that, I had untreated depression and anxiety. I cracked, for lack of a better term, and it took me several years to pull myself back together.
There’s a lot more pressure on teens to be successful. They’re supposed to get the best grades, be in activities, be good people, volunteer, and who knows what else just to get into college. And once there, the expectations don’t leave. I certainly admire Taylor and her resilience throughout the novel, for finding a way to deal with the pressure she puts on herself and that she feels from her family.
A small note, but I also liked how Taylor’s father didn’t want her to use his name to get ahead. He wanted her to earn everything on her own, but he also wanted her to face the real consequences of the world. I think that speaks to Taylor’s ability to fight through barriers and find a better path for her life.
I can’t really think of anything. I’m sure I’m quite biased toward Kenneally, but this book was really good. I enjoyed every single minute of reading.
Thank you to Miranda Kenneally for sending me a copy of the book to read while I was in the hospital. The book really helped those last few days from dragging too much and it’s hard to be unhappy when I’m reading such a wonderful story.