defending taylor, miranda kenneally explains how hard she's worked for everything and how it took taking a risk to realize she wasn't enjoying her life to the fullest. her goal in writing this book was to show that you can't just work so hard for things in life, you have to want them, you have to enjoy them. while i think she accomplished this to an extent, i also think that perhaps the deeper message of her novel was limited by its format?
ultimately, defending taylor is a nice contemporary ya read. the main character taylor lukens comes from privilege, but she's been raised to work hard and to do the right thing. when she gets busted for drug possession and kicked out of her swank
y public school her life spirals out of control. suddenly her parents don't trust her. she's feeling alienated from her friends. she was supposed to be the captain of her school's soccer team and now she finds herself starting from scratch at a new school with an indifferent soccer program. it's also a middling academic program, and taylor's used to pushing herself hard. her family are legacy yalies. she had a future all mapped out for herself, but nothing is certain anymore, especially since she got herself in such serious trouble.
also adding to the stakes in the situation is the fact that her father is a state senator running for re-election. one of his key issues is a strong stance on drugs, so his daughter's bust and expulsion don't make things look good for the senator. and here is my issue with this book, if her father were the cut-throat politician he was made out to be, he would have been a lot more savvy about hushing up a drug bust. taylor was caught with 30 adderall pills she didn't have a prescription for and a small amount of pot and a bottle of alcohol. obviously prescription drug abuse is a big deal, but the book did everything it could to minimize the fact that even though taylor had on occasion taken adderall to help stay up studying it doesn't really talk about the deeper issues behind prescription drug abuse.
if this weren't fiction, then taylor would have been sent to rehab, and the pr strategy around the whole thing would have been utterly different. as it is everyone seems to act like taylor is singlehandedly responsible for bringing down his reelection campaign, and i just didn't buy that her parents would just let her feel all that pressure. a rich kid with drug problems isn't news, and as bad as the media can be i also feel like more compassion would be given to a teenager who is allegedly dealing with serious addiction issues.
the other troubling thing is that taylor's parents have clearly instilled strong family values in their youngest daughter. they obviously love her. so the way they blow hot and cold between defending her and blaming her doesn't ring true. i understand dealing with many emotions at the same time, but at times her parents behave so heartlessly and at others they are obviously caring and concerned and the swing between those two emotions isn't well-developed by the author.
but if we forget all of those things, and just focus on the sweet romance between taylor and ezra, then it's all good. i loved their relationship. taylor has always had a crush on ezra, until a misunderstanding about her sixteenth birthday party derailed their burgeoning relationship. now that she is home under inauspicious circumstances and he is too. they reconnect and clear things up. and they are so sweet together. she helps him work through his issues, and he helps her realize that she needs to think more about what she wants out of life, beyond what is expected of her. in this at least they earn their happy ending.
i enjoyed this story, and read it in one sitting. if you like katie mcgarry or sarah dessen you will probably like this.
**defending taylor is scheduled to publish july 5, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks fire in exchange for my honest review.