Friday, October 11, 2013

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

"Love is the toughest game of all."

Derek Fitzpatrick finds himself expelled from the Regents Preparatory Academy at the end of his junior year for a stunt at graduation. He took the blame so that five of his friends wouldn't get in trouble but he never believed for one moment that expulsion would be his punishment. With his father on a six month deployment as the commander of a submarine, Derek must now live with his new stepmother and her five year old son, Julian. Brandi is only eight years older than him. When she announces that she is moving back home to Chicago, he doesn't want to go. With no way to stay in California, he will have to move to a new city to finish his senior year of high school. To make matters worse, Brandi announces that she and his father are going to have a baby. Derek is floored.

Ashtyn Parker is the only girl on her high school football team. Her mother left the family to go to New York and her father has checked out on her life. Joining the football team hasn't made her father, a former state champion football player himself, any more interested in her life. Truly alone, she has dated Landon McKnight, a fellow teammate for the past year. Now getting ready to start their senior year of high school and hopefully win a state championship, everyone knows that the college scouts will be there looking at Landon but will be seeing all of them as well. At the start of summer, the team gathers to vote on a team captain for the upcoming year. Ashtyn and Landon are both shocked when Ashtyn is voted as team captain. Landon doesn't take it very well.

Brandi has taken Derek and Julian to live with her father, who she hasn't seen in years. Derek picks up on the tension between them two of them, especially when her father says that she didn't mention a stepson coming with them. Put out at first, he makes sleeping arrangements for Derek. As they all go into the house, Derek notices that Brandi hasn't mentioned that she is expecting. Wanting to escape the confines of the house, Derek goes out into the overgrown backyard. He spies a tool shed and looks around. A hot looking girl comes up behind him with a pitchfork and demands to know why he is there. She accuses him of being from Fairfield to prank her but Derek doesn't know what she is talking about. Warning him, she throws the pitchfork at his foot and locks the shed. Derek is now trapped.

Ashtyn goes into the house looking for her father and finds a woman rummaging in the refrigerator. Looking twice, Ashtyn realizes that it is her older sister Brandi, whom she hasn't seen in seven years. Telling her sister about the guy she has locked in the tool shed, Brandi realizes that she has met her stepson, Derek. They run outside to free him. Derek is able to locate the key hidden inside the shed and passes it out to Brandi. She unlocks the door and introduces her sister Ashtyn to her stepson Derek.

Ashtyn spars with Derek immediately. Finding him attractive, he is the last thing she wants to think about. Her problems with Landon are just beginning when he cannot let go of the fact that she was voted football captain over him. Julian literally worships the ground Derek walks on and even her dog prefers Derek over herself. Deep down, all Ashtyn really wants is to be accepted and loved by her parents. Derek is finding it hard to keep all thoughts of Ashtyn from his mind. He wishes for just one more day with his dead mother. Trying to make the best of his situation, he tries repeatedly to break through Ashtyn's tough exterior. Soon all of her friends are drooling over his physique and flirting unabashedly. Even though Ashtyn is technically Derek's step aunt and is constantly irritated by him, it isn't long before her thoughts begin to stray to him. The tension between the two of them is thick.

Landon and Ashtyn break up when he transfers to Fairfield to play football and become captain of their team. The two of them were going to attend an elite football camp in Texas that summer. Landon was going to be Ashtyn's ride. Derek gets a letter from his maternal grandmother wishing to see him one last time before she dies and to make up for all of the mistakes she made when her daughter married Derek's father. Ashtyn pushes him to go to Texas to see her and drive her to the camp, since she has no other way to get there. Derek eventually relents and the two of them drive together to Texas.

Can Derek break though Ashtyn's tough exterior? Is Derek willing to accept his new life or will he bolt as soon as he can? Will Ashtyn finally get acceptance from her father? Can the fractured Parker family find its way back to one another? Will Ashtyn be able to lead her team to a state championship against Landon and Fairfield? Does Derek makeup with his grandmother before it is too late? What secrets is Derek keeping from Ashtyn and how do they impact her? And will the two of them ever be able to admit their feelings for one another?

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