"Wild Cards" by Simone Elkeles was the perfect blend of contemporary romance dealing with coming of age and tough subjects, with a central theme of sports. I really enjoyed the journey through this book and found it well worth the read.
The story toggles between two first-person perspectives: Derek and Ashtyn. Derek is a former football prodigy who quit the team on behalf of a personal tragedy that knocked his world from focus. After being kicked out of his former academy, he has to move to Chicago with his stepmother and brother, while his father serves overseas. He happens to meet Ashtyn, an up and coming football star of her own rank, but deals both with personal struggles on and off the field. The two have a push/pull chemistry that has its share of ups and downs. The whole time, I felt convinced of the interaction between these characters and their personal struggles. Both of the characters have significant flaws, but I found that the narrative brings attention to them in a way that felt realistic. The story ultimately progresses to where Ashtyn and Derek have to deal with each other whether they like it or not.
I really enjoyed getting to know both of the main characters as well as the side characters. I didn't expect to like Derek's grandmother in her introduction, but the character grew on me as the story went forward. I could say that was true of many of the characters progressively. The only issue that I had within the narrative was that there were a few story threads that didn't quite tie up by the end of the story, but the ending felt satisfying for the overarching focus that "Wild Cards" had.
I would recommend it, and definitely look forward to reading more of Elkeles's work in the future.
Overall score: 4/5 stars
Note: I received this as and ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Walker Childrens.