After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain–people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
With a fairly predictable plot, I shouldn’t find Wild Cards appealing. But when almost every character experience some situation that leads to changes in their conscience, the level of openness or willingness to uphold integrity becomes an interesting theme that fascinates me. I wouldn’t say the story is just about moral struggles (because it is not) but if you like to subtly observe changes in human behavior, you may find this an exceptionally enjoyable story to indulge.
Personally, I particularly like the part about people learning to open up to give and receive love. Both Derek and Ashtyn have their inner obstacles to stop themselves from truly feeling what they want but instead of finding their reluctance annoying, I learn to drop my prejudice and make room to empathize and view their issues through their perspectives. Derek seems too noble to be real – he cares about others too too much that it hurts to see him suffer. Ashtyn doesn’t dare to desire much but her determination to never give up really helps to bring out the best in people. It’s through their hesitation and abandonment that I start to understand why they guard their hearts in their kind of warped protective sense.
Will I like the story better if there is no instant attraction between Derek and Ashtyn? I guess perhaps but given the circumstances, I wouldn’t say the attraction seemed forced or implausible. It may seem weird to say this but I actually like the predictability of the plot. Why? Because it gives me comfort knowing how things will turn out in the end. While it’s somewhat disturbing to see betrayal and bullying happened in the story, the focus is never fixated on righting the wrongs but more about making the choice to cherish what’s present in the moment. And it surely doesn’t hurt that Derek happens to have a grandmother who may appear controlling but end up offering just the perfect medley to soothe the angst and amp up the joy!
I had a pleasant time reading Wild Cards and I wonder what personal challenges the characters may face as the series progresses. Hopefully we’ll see more of Derek and the paternal side of his family in the next book.