Just Wanna Have Fun | Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

A country star + budding musician/high school student + one awesome day. Sourcebooks Fire; 7/7/15; 304 Pages.

What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.

Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)

The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).

So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.


Why in 5 — country music style (Sorry, Maya!):

Live a Little” (Kenny Chesney): I need to live a little, have some fun / Take some time, waste it on number one / Find a girl that brings my whole world to a stop / Live a little

I don’t want to call Jesse a “poor little celebrity” but he’s been burned before and he’d rather hang out alone with his cat (Casper!) than actually talk to other people when he has time off. Plus — imagine working so hard all the time and barely being able to go in public on an off day. I always liked a boy who was a challenge so I like that Maya (who plays it so cool) wants him to confide in her — even if it’s a one time only thing.

New Strings” (Miranda Lambert): I’ve worried about life and / If it’s arriving right on time / I guess if you don’t jump / You’ll never know if you can fly

Maya is gutsy and she knows what she wants. That’s more than we can say about a lot of 17 year olds but, more than anything, I love how nothing has stopped her from getting closer to her passion. Lack of money, crappy band members, her age — none of these factors matter. When the going gets tough, Maya just grows to be tougher and I admired her for it.

I Don’t Want This Night to End” (Luke Bryan): I’m so glad you trusted me / To slide up on this dusty seat / And let your hair down / Get out of town / Got the stars coming out over my hood/ And all I know now is it’s going good

I’m obsessed with the concept of two people spending one magical, amazing day together. What happens next? Jesse can ditch his entourage for a day, and Maya’s parents have no idea what her Career Day (arranged by her principal, no less) has turned into. Our main characters reach a certain level of intimacy, hanging out in this bubble all day, and, as the reader, you want so badly for nothing to disturb that.

Tumble and Fall” (Little Big Town): “It’s a reach out, it’s a white flag, it’s a forfeit of the game / It’s a let go of the ego, and the whisper of your name / It’s a fight for, not a defend, it’s a stay out in the rain”

It’s not like Maya goes into Career Day thinking she’s going to nab the GREAT Jesse Scott. Spoilers aside: this is a Miranda Kenneally book so we know we have some high-charged chemistry to look forward to. But he’s a celebrity! She’s in high school! How would this even work if either of them were willing to admit they liked each other? It’s all about taking that risk.

Maps Out the Window” (Caitlyn Shadbolt): Woahhh feels good just letting go / Woahhh roll it down, let the wind blow

This song embodies the fun and fancy free feeling that Jesse’s Girl is all about. Just like you want to be listening to this song with the top down and sun shining on your face, there’s no way this book won’t boost your mood and make you smile.

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This book was provided by the publisher for review.

It’s Here: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Christmas has come early at Rather Be Reading!

We are really excited to present you with the cover of Miranda Kenneally’s upcoming novel: Breathe, Annie, Breathe. We have been huge fans of Miranda’s work since the release of Catching Jordan: she writes about brave young women with different backgrounds, beliefs, goals, and dreams. We love that about her.

Okay, okay, we can’t hold it in any longer. Here’s the gorgeous new cover of Breathe, Annie, Breathe:

Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally: cover reveal at Rather Be Reading Blog

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is part of the Hundred Oaks series and will be releases on July 1, 2014. Here’s the official summary:

Eighteen-year-old Annie Winters can barely run a mile without wheezing. Still, she’s training to run the Music City Marathon in seven short months. Running is so not her thing, but she has to finish what her boyfriend started… before he died.

Annie feels guilt that she’s still alive and blames herself for his death; she has to do this to honor him – running a marathon was his dream. Plus training gives her something to do, it’s a distraction. So is Jeremiah Brown. 

He’s an adrenaline junkie who runs marathons backwards. He flirts with Annie on the trails and it makes her feel alive and happy and guilty all at the same time. She wants to both race into his arms and sprint in the opposite direction – because loving is a risk she’s not sure she’s ready to take again…

Are you as psyched as we are?!

Be sure to add Breathe, Annie, Breathe to your reading list and stay up to date with Miranda’s work on Twitter and her website!

Now we just have to sit around and wait until July….

(In the meantime, take a visit to Hundred Oaks and check out Miranda’s latest: Racing Savannah! It’s so so so good!)

Estelle: Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda KenneallyThings I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally ( tweet | web)
Part of the Hundred Oaks series (but can be read as a standalone)
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: SourceBooks Fire
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: religion, choices, friendship, romance, summer
Format read: ARC won from a contest held by the author. (Thank you!!)

Summary: A counselor at camp this summer, Kate is hoping to use her time in the great outdoors to draw and get over the huge event from the last few months that has changed her life and gone against everything she believes in. When a guy from her past, a fellow camper from childhood who gave her her first kiss, returns to camp as a counselor too… her beliefs are once again tested when she realizes he actually likes her. But what if she doesn’t like herself much?

Ahh, it’s nice to be welcomed back to Hundred Oaks.

Take in the usual scenery (good-looking boys), meet up with some old friends (Jordan and Parker sightings!), and get to know the latest strong female character to take centerstage. In Things I Can’t Forget, our characters have just graduated high school and are jumping into their last summer before college. Kate, armed with her sketchbook, is off to Cumberland Creek Summer Camp as the arts and crafts counselor. While she hoped to be there enjoying the wilderness with her best friend, Emily, the last few months of her high school career have been anything but predictable.

You see, Kate is harboring a secret; a huge secret, something pertaining to Emily that has made her question all the values she has held dear since forever, the very morals that got her called a “Jesus Freak” in school and left her to be very judgmental of other people’s actions when it came to sex, homosexuality, and just about anything. Kate loves her religion; she essentially is her religion.

And her situation with Emily creates a little crack in this foundation. This foundation of goodness that so defines her.

Kate wants to make her time at camp about paying penance to God for all she has done. She wants her illustrious reputation (the one that no one knows is tarnished except for her) returned to her. And then Matt comes into the picture. You know, when there’s a girl who wears her religion like a shield and is able to push a ton of people away, it truly takes a gem of a guy be accepting and attempt to court her. Kate is equally wrapped up in how she feels for Matt — she remembers how nice he was to her as a kid (and vice versa) and suddenly feels herself teetering, on the brink of love, wondering what truly defines the good and evils of this life.

Ladies, just so you know, Matt has biceps, plays the guitar, and writes all of his own songs.

I’m happy to say that Will and Parker have a lot to do with Kate opening up too… even if it is so gradual. Parker is still hurt by her church’s resistance to support her and her family (this includes Kate) when her mom left them to live with her lover last year. She finds it hard to trust and good ol’ Will plays well between the two because he is a friend to Kate, and, Parker’s boyfriend. He wants to smooth the roughness. Unexpectedly, all of these characters have the power to help one another in ways they didn’t even know existed.

Things I Can’t Forget is so much about romance, friendship, and the magic and possibility that summer promises. But for Kate, it is also about asking the big questions, taking risks, and coming into your own. (This means making mistakes!) It’s about finding this balance between what our bodies may want and how far we are willing to go. It’s about the ability to stay connected to people even if their beliefs are different from ours. Even if we can’t understand their actions. Something stronger has to root us together.

See? This is what I love about Miranda Kenneally’s work. After reading each of her Hundred Oaks books in succession, I’ve seen how family, our beliefs, expectations, acceptance, and love play key parts in the actions of her main characters. While fast-paced and totally addicting, Things I Can’t Forget manages to touch upon several discussion worthy subjects without forcing any of the answers and truly shows how Kenneally’s work has grown (in complexity and authenticity) since the series began.

By far, this book feels the most personal of them all.

My one complaint? I would have loved a few more pages. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet.

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