Series: Hundred Oaks #2
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on October 1st, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.
Now Parker wants a new life.
So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?
But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
My heart hurts right now. Though less cheery and bantery than Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker hit me right in the feels and was so meaningful… I need to just take a moment. *breathes out* Phew. I’m okay.
I didn’t know what to expect at all, going into this book. I hadn’t read the premise, since I got it for my birthday from Christina and was resolved to read all the Miranda Kenneally books in existence anyway. The two others that I’d read, Catching Jordan and Breathe, Annie, Breathe were much more romance-centric than Stealing Parker, I think. Stealing Parker was more about character growth to me, with the bonus of a romance. But as with all Kenneally books, the characters are realistic and fantastic, and the relationship dynamics blew me away.
Parker instantly stole my heart, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting it. Her family has been torn apart after her mother came out as a lesbian and left. This admission became hot gossip for the community, and soon parents were warning their children to stay away from Parker, because her family of sinners would make her a bad influence. The way that Parker is ostracized, which causes her to develop some serious trust issues, definitely got to me. I could relate to that. A lot. She’s not even that much of a deviant – sure, she makes out with multiple guys, whenever she feels like it, but she doesn’t have sex with them. Her own frustrations with her mother have her lashing out, trying to prove she’s not like her, but in the end, that doesn’t much help her image. A lot of the book deals with how you are perceived by others and finding the confidence to be who you are regardless of what they think, and I absolutely fucking loved that. Parker grows in a big way, which really makes me want to hug her forever. She’s flawed, but she learns, and it makes her so real.
As with the other books in this series, sports play a role – and this time it’s baseball and softball. I’ll admit I actually love baseball, and I went to multiple games while I lived in Houston (ASTROS), so I loved that element of the book. It’s less sports-heavy than Catching Jordan, because Parker quit softball to distance herself from her mother and her ex-best friend Laura, but she becomes the manager of the baseball team. I love her descriptions of seeing the sport and instantly having the desire to be around it and participate as much as possible – I have that relationship myself with swimming.
But anyway, baseball team = hot boys and shenanigans. I love Kenneally’s boy characters. They are so fantastic. Not only do we get glimpses of SAM FUCKING HENRY which made me ecstatic, but Parker’s few close friends also stole my heart. Drew is wonderfully supportive, the only person Parker really trusts anymore. And then there’s Corndog (or as her dad calls him, Corn Fritter) who is charming and hilarious and sweet. I just love the camaraderie – also how they likened themselves to the Seinfeld characters when hanging out at the diner. Forever lol.
But then there’s the romance. The premise will have alerted you that there’s a student-teacher thing going on here. That’s a complicated subject, because in fiction, it can be quite charming. And indeed, Kenneally brought the chemistry that did have me swooning for them at first. But Kenneally writes realistic fiction and not escapism. When it comes down to it, student-teacher relationships are not exactly healthy. I was seriously impressed by how it was handled. She kept me on my toes with where this romance was going. I had no clue. There were some surprises and betrayals that absolutely broke my heart. I felt just as betrayed as Parker did, and I just felt so much sympathy for her. She makes mistakes, sure, but with everything she’s been going through for the last year, she’s just lost and looking for love and support wherever she can get it. I… I need another moment.
Luckily, it doesn’t stay too heavy. Kenneally really has a way of making even these subjects which can be pretty icky turn out light in the end. She’s a fan of happy endings, which I’m happy about because if the emotional rollercoaster went on for much longer, I may have burst out crying. Parker turns out all right in the end. And then the ship is glorious and I just fucking wish we had more time with them because asdjfkl; asdfjkl; my feelings.
I also have to say that I’m deeply impressed by the way that religion is dealt with in Stealing Parker. I’m not religious at all – I was pretty much raised atheist and have only attended church about 3 times, each time having immense difficulty staying awake. Parker actually is religious. She grew up going to the same church with the same people every Sunday, and I liked how that really added this human element of community to it. After her mom left and Laura ditched her, Parker finds herself in a really complicated relationship with her religion. Though her father still wants her to go to church, she never feels comfortable there – constantly feeling the judging eyes of this “community”, which has pretty much labeled her a sinner, slut, and a bad influence. She starts doubting her faith, because how could God let her family have to face so many struggles? It seriously made me feel a lot of intense things, in spite of my having no faith at all. It made Parker so real and multidimensional, and the way her struggle is resolved with the help of her mom really brought a tear to my eye.