Published August 5, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 336 pages
Borrowed from library
Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden were quite literally destined to be together. Their respective families have been best friends with each other for over two centuries; they're so close that the Caffertys practically consider the Marsdens family and vice versa. For years, the two families have yearned for a marriage to permanently link their families together but there was never a boy AND a girl born at the same time... until Jemma and Ryder. Needless to say, the two have been pushed together by their parents ever since their births. But the only thing is, Jemma and Ryder hate each other. Like blood boiling, CANNOT under any circumstances STAND each other so the last thing they want is to be in a relationship with each other. But when the tide appears to start turning and their feelings start to get more and more confused, it's hard not to speculate: will their parents get what they want after all? Or are Jemma and Ryder's pasts just too hard to reconcile?
it cannot be officially summer yet if i haven't stocked up on ya contemporary romances. this is the truth— annie (@anniemabel7) June 24, 2015
IT REALLY IS THE TRUTH. Summer is just not summer without contemporary romances. Magnolia was one of the books I had on my list to read this summer because so many bloggers I trust really enjoyed it and also, it just sounds DAMN good. And IT WAS. Like truly, if you are looking for THE YA contemporary romance for this summer, look no further than Magnolia. It's a quick but addictive read. I promise, you will not want to put this down. I know because I wasn't able to put it down and ended up reading it in a span of five hours.
Honestly I wish I had drawn it out a little longer or at least saved it for mid-summer because it was so good that it makes me sorry it was one of the very first books I read - since my daycare days when my teacher would advise us all to eat our least favourite part of the meal first and save the best for last, I have kinda applied that theory to all parts of my life, including summer reading lists. Magnolia was everything I had hoped that it would be and more.
Although yes, I did only give it four stars (4.5 stars if we're being technical) and that just about comes down to two teeny things that gave me some pause. The first thing is the hatred between Jemma and Ryder. I was not entirely convinced how much they really did hate each other, especially at the beginning and I guess, even now having finished the book, although given everything else that happened, it's a bit of a moot point now. But yeah, I think the hatred between was them was something that I needed to see a little more evidence of. The reason that Jemma gave was totally grounds for hating someone and it made sense, as in yes I would be mad at a person if they did what Ryder did to Jemma and yes I would probably hate them too. But apart from that, maybe the only glimpse we get of their actual hatred towards each other is in one short scene at the beginning. And that's it. So it's something that gave me a little pause and it's one thing that's holding me back from giving it a 5 star rating, although by the time I was finished I was so over the moon with how things ended up and how natural and believable Ryder and Jemma's relationship was, it was hardly in my mind. (Because let's not beat around the bush, YES OF COURSE Jemma and Ryder end up together). AND YES I know that sounds contradictory but that's how it was for me.
The other thing I don't know if I can totally disclose because it's so spoilery but for those of you who have read the book: PATRICK. That is all I'm going to say. PATRICK. (But really skip this paragraph if you haven't read the book yet. I'm not going to mention any specifics but better to err on the side of caution if you're VERY picky about spoilers) That entire storyline just had me scratching my head so hard even in the beginning. It felt unnecessary and then THE THING happened and I was left even more confused. It never felt totally resolved, instead just lingering about for the remainder of the book and that is the MAIN reason why I cannot give this book 5 stars, as much as I enjoyed it. That entire sub-plot was just so confusing and frankly, unnecessary and out of place and then everything was just dealt with so roughly. It just never sat right with me. I feel like maybe it was added to draw comparisons to Ryder and show how ONE thing is clearly better than the other which makes sense but with what happened, it just bugged me so much. I don't understand why it happened, I don't think Patrick was dumb enough to do what he did, it was honestly just so so strange like why was this even part of the book in the first place. And I hated it as well. I feel like my instinct is just to always go to the underdog and the guy that's maybe a little rough around the edges so that's why I personally felt so much for Patrick but still. SO MUCH UGH.
But apart from that, I really did like this book. It's a solid romance with many great components. Namely, the romance. Hate to love is one of my favourite tropes and Kristi Cook did it spectacularly and YES I KNOW I'M CONTRADICTING MYSELF AGAIN BUT I AM JUST A BUNDLE OF CONTRADICTIONS but yes I really thought the progression of Ryder and Jemma's relationship was very smooth and realistic. Honestly I kinda had to stop reading a few times to let out a few giggles just because there were some scenes where it wasn't really graphic (so yes if you want me to say it, there is no sex) but honestly there was so much CHEMISTRY and romantic tension between the two, I just had to shake out the swoons and tingles I had. And you know, Ryder did win me over in this book. He was just so sweet, I don't know, I just really liked him. And it certainly did not hurt that I was picturing him as James Marsden the entire time even though he's like 40 and basically 30 years older than what Ryder is in the book but honestly James Marsden is so swoon no matter how old he is.
There were other parts I really liked as well. For starters, I really liked the Mississippi setting and even though I've never been to the South it felt like I was there so all the components of a Southern lifestyle, I thought, were very well written and it made me want to live there even though I am not a rural girl. It just all sounded very glamorous to me and romantic how everyone knew who everyone was and how you grow up with these people and have known them your entire life.
I also liked the realisticness of the storm. Which honestly I still think is kinda a spoiler. Like it's in the Goodreads blurb but it doesn't happen until 1/2 of the book in and the entire time I was just waiting for it to happen and it was not fun. So I'd tell you to not read that blurb and just go in blind but since we're here on the subject anyway... let me just say that it was written very realistically. Not that I've been in a storm but I could picture myself in the scenario and everything just felt very right.
And then besides all that, you also have the great side characters, the family aspect which I always love, the real struggles of being a teen like WORRYING ABOUT UNI that I always appreciate seeing and the writing.
ALSO I just realized the parallels between this book and Romeo & Juliet. I mean I KNOW it's supposed to be like a reverse Romeo & Juliet retelling but I literally just noticed that
The Caffertys - The Capulets
The Marsdens - The Montagues
Jemma - Juliet
Ryder - Romeo
Ben - Benvolio
Mason - Mercutio
Tanner - Tybalt
Rosie - Rosaline
Honestly you would think I'd have caught on a bit earlier after studying Romeo & Juliet for a whole excruciating year but I'M JUST SO DIM, I DIDN'T EVEN SEE IT. Although honestly even now as I see the parallels between the two works, I'm still not entirely sold on the Romeo & Juliet retelling aspect of this book. There are a lot of moments that jump out at me that are CLEARLY drawing reference to the play so work under the confines of "Romeo & Juliet retelling" but not under the confines of "oh hey this is what Magnolia is actually about". If that makes sense? Like a lot of scenes just felt like they were thrown in there to make it MORE of a Romeo & Juliet retelling without actually adding anything to the actual story of Magnolia and Ryder and Jemma.
But overall yes, if you're looking for a good contemporary romance, look no further than Magnolia!
Magnolia was THE summer contemporary romance I was looking for. The relationship between Ryder and Jemma progressed so naturally and there were definitely some moments that had me all SWOON. There are sooo many things to like about this book although there were two TINY bits that gave me pause and are why I didn't rate this book a 5 star read. But it was truthfully very very close to it. I read it in 5 hours because it was just so addictive and I couldn't get enough of Jemma and Ryder. The fact that it's a Romeo & Juliet retelling totally slipped my mind while I was reading so make of that what you will? It's only now in hindsight that I'm slowly picking up the parallels between the two books even though I am really familiar with the story of Romeo & Juliet, I just was out of it I suppose? But overall, a great book.
people looking for a cute but well written contemporary romance perfect for the summer.
Kelly @ Effortlessly Reading gives it 3 stars: "Overall, Magnolia was a cute fun read despite it’s awkward beginning, but it’s not one of my favorite retelling or my favorite Romeo and Juliet retelling by any means."