Jun 20, 2015

BOOK REVIEW of Pepper Jones 1 & 2 by Ali Dean

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Author: Ali Dean
Publication Date: August 25, 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Sports, Romance

When I read the blurb of Pepped Up and All Pepped Up, I was hesitant to review it because of two reasons: first, I'm not into stories that involve love triangles. Second, I don't run, and I know next to nothing about this sport! I figured that I'd probably have a hard time connecting to the female lead. Both concerns of mine have been quickly disregarded when I got into reading these books, and I can confidently say that the Pepper Jones trilogy (thought I haven't read the third one yet) is now part of my favorite series list. 

Pepper Jones is ready for an epic cross country season. She wants to qualify for Nationals, and she’s willing to do anything it takes to make it happen. She can handle long miles and hill sprints, but boys? That’s an entirely different challenge.

Pepper’s never considered revealing her deeper feelings for her longtime friend, Jace Wilder. After all, he’s got the personal magnetism and good looks to hook just about any girl in town -- and he has. Their friendship stands apart from high school social circles, and they’re both just fine with that (or at least they pretend to be).

That is, until running star Ryan Harding moves to town.

When it comes to running, Pepper’s goals are clear. But when it comes to Jace and Ryan, it’s nowhere near as simple. 

Pepper Jones is a pretty complicated girl. She's strong but can't handle confrontations, driven but loses focus when it comes to a certain someone, not a good girl but can't ever be called a bad girl either. She's exactly my kind of gal! Running always keeps her centered, and it comes as easy as breathing to her. Boys or fitting in have never interest her, but that is until Ryan arrived and Jace started acting un-brotherly (not a real word) towards her. 

Jace Wilder has a lot of anger and sadness bottled up inside him. He seeks acceptance and love that not even fu***ng countless girls -- sometimes more than one at a time -- can fulfill. The only person who makes him feel...better is also the only girl that he can't have. His feelings for "Pep" runs so deep, and he considers her his sanity. Without her, he feels nothing.

Based on my Character Background section, you'd already have a good idea of who ends up together. This is not a love triangle. Well, actually it is, but it's not the kind where the girl is really in love with two men and couldn't decide who she wants to be with. Nah, Pepped Up wasn't like that. Sure he got together with Ryan, but Jace didn't exactly help matters in any way. Let me breakdown the things I liked and loved in Pepped Up:

The Characters
I can see myself hanging out with Pepper. She has the makings to be part of the popular crowd, but she couldn't care less about that. I was sort of a Pepper Jones in my high school as well, so I actually related to her which is in total contradiction to my earlier assessment. She's effortlessly cool and hot, confident and shy, and she's totally easy to love. Ryan is just...*sigh* he's my kind of guy. Cute but doesn't flaunt it, can blend in with any group, goal-oriented, responsible, and sweet. He's the complete boyfriend package! Bunny...oh, bunny, why aren't thou my grandmother like you? She's the coolest nana ever! She can be quite embarrassing if you don't know how to handle her, but she's a 100 in the awesomeness scale, no doubt. The support characters were also very nice. The jocks weren't annoying and mean like how other books and movies show them to be.

The Story
It's not everyday you read about a high school girl's journey in achieving her goal in a sport that she truly loves, as well as figuring out who her heart truly wants. More often than not when we read a book with sports in it, it usually focuses on the male lead's road to success in that field. So Pepped Up is a really refreshing and accepted change. 

The Hot Scenes
This is a bit of a spoiler, but the steamy scene between Pepper and Jace was just off the charts! I think I drooled at some point. And they weren't even naked!! 

I found Jace's demeanor and attitude very bothersome. There also weren't any explanation about his feelings for Pepper; when it started, how, and why. Especially since he insists on calling her a little sister. I guess I was just looking for a believable reason for his feelings.

There's absolutely no doubt  that I loved this book. I give it 5 stars. It's not your regular high school story book with teenage angst and shallow problems. This is very inspiring, frustrating, and exciting.  

Author: Ali Dean
Publication Date: July 10, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Sports, Romance

I started reading All Pepped Up immediately after finishing Pepped Up. So that was about 12 midnight. Can you say addicted? I really liked the first installment of the Pepper Jones series, and just a heads up...this second one is filled with sexual tension, confusion, family reconciliation, and self-discovery.

(This is the second book in the Pepper Jones series. The following description contains spoilers for Pepped Up, which should be read first.)

Pepper Jones knew that being Jace Wilder’s girlfriend wouldn’t be simple. But she didn’t predict just how many complications would arise from his past. Jealous girls? That she expected. Family secrets? Not so much. At least Pepper can always hit the trails to clear her head… except when it comes to racing. The high expectations from her phenomenal cross country season haunt her, and she can’t seem to get psyched up for track season. Pepper’s junior year at Brockton Public is full of challenges on and off the track, but she’s not afraid to face them.

Pepper Jones lost one of the most important things in her life -- her desire to win. She's unsure of what she wants to do towards her running career and her doubts are manifesting themselves by making her body fail to cooperate. All she knows is that she wants to fight for her relationship with Jace, and in order to do that, she must learn to trust him fully.

Jace Wilder is confused and scared. Growing up, he felt the need for acceptance because his mother left them. Now she's back and he just wants to have her in his life again. Just when he thinks everything in his life is going perfectly, something tears Pepper away from him.

In my review of Pepped Up, my annoyance with Jace was very obvious. In All Pepped Up though I liked him. He's possessive with Pepper but in a really charming way, he can also control his emotions much better now which I'm sure is all thanks to his girlfriend. The fact that his family is complete now must also be a huge factor because according to Bunny and Pepper, it seems like a ton of weight has been lifted off of Jace's shoulders, making him a better person. Wes also did very well in my book; he's much more responsible now, treats people better, and he's 100% pro Pepper. 

Our female lead goes through a lot of confusion and self-doubt in this installment in the series. She starts to doubt her ability and passion in running, or more accurately, winning. There are also some people trying hard to rip apart her relationship with Jace, and she does have doubts and insecurities. But one of the many things I love about her is her courage to take on these challenges and not back down. Also, the way she handled the professional dilemmas she went through is amazing. This teaches us to not give up on the things we love just because we're going through a phase, especially if we love what we're doing. Pressure is also part of life, and you'll get more of it the better you are im what you do, but we shouldn't let it get in our heads and deter us from our goals. 

Still no "I love you"? Did I just miss it or are they really not yet in love with each other? I mean, sure they choose to show it instead of say it, and that they also say things to each other that is even heavier than those three words, but it's just that...I need to hear (read) it! It'll give me peace of mind. 

Another 5 stars for All Pepped Up. It teaches us about trust, second chances, and conquering of self-built obstacles. I really can't wait to read the last part of the series.

Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin toddlers, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.




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