I love receiving books from Netgalley. The feeling of reading something before the everyone else gets to read it fills my heart with joy.
However, it’s always a bit of a wild gamble - I apply for loads of books and I don't remember why I actually requested them. My memory sucks.
Turns out that Rival by Penelope Douglas, which I picked solely based on the cover, is a highly anticipated book and part of a series (I learned that boring sidekick of Madoc, Jared, has his own story in another book - I’ll have to read it to find out more about him).
But what is this book about? It’s filled with so many twists and turns that I really wasn’t sure how to describe the plot. So I copied it from Goodreads.
Madoc and Fallon. Two estranged teenagers playing games that push the boundaries between love and war…
For the two years she’s been away at boarding school, there was no word from her. Back when we lived in the same house, she used to cut me down during the day and then leave her door open for me at night.
I was stupid then, but now I’m ready to beat her at her own game…
Two years and I can tell he still wants me, even if he acts like he’s better than me.
But I won’t be scared away. Or pushed down. I’ll call his bluff and fight back. That’s what he wants, right? As long as I keep my guard up, he’ll never know how much he affects me….
Nice and vague right? But that's the only way to describe it without giving too much away.
But how did I feel about this book? That’s very hard to answer.
Do they really love each other?
On the one hand, I absolutely adored it. I loved both Fallon and Madoc. They are not without flaws, but they are written like real human beings. Throughout the book, we slowly learn more about each character and like them more and more.
What I especially loved was the description of Madoc. He starts off as the typical 18-year old cocky bad boy, but really turns into an adult you can respect at the end of the book. He had an incredible growing curve during the story and it was very realistic. He didn’t do a 180 and suddenly become Prince Charming, but he learned a lot of things. The most important thing being to publicly show his respect for women.
But the one thing I disliked about the book is that I felt that Madoc and Fallon never have a real relationship. They have sex, and lots of it (which is described in detail btw), but their conversations seem to fall flat somehow.
When they do talk, it’s about their past romance and what happened back then. But from what we read, they didn’t really talk much back then either. And otherwise it’s have conversations about their big problems in life. But isn’t a relationship also small talk? Little cute conversations in the night? I would have loved to have read some of that.
So is it love or lust? I think it’s a clear case of teenage lust and I doubt they would be able to make it last in the real world. So no, I don’t ship Fallon and Madoc. At all. I adore them separately, but think they should just let each other go and grow up a bit.
Penelope Douglas however is a phenomenal writer. She knows how to describe characters so that the reader slowly falls in love with them. She plays with her language and creates a plot that keeps you surprised in every single chapter. Does that mean the plot at times is very broad and slightly confusing? Yes. But it also means that a reader is challenged to pay attention. I enjoyed all the little indicators that showed something would happen before it actually did. It kept me interested in the story.
She also alternated between the point of view of Fallon and Madoc. I love this in any story and Penelope really succeeded in picking the right point of view for the right moment. She also managed to give each character their own unique voice, which really helped with connecting to the characters.
So how to rate this? Due to the lack of real relationship between Fallon and Madoc, it can’t be a 5 star. But because of my love for both of the characters and the great writing style, I have to give it a 4. I just wish the plot would have been slightly less complicated so we could have seen more “real” moments between Madoc and Fallon.
Oh and btw, don't get discouraged by the playlist at the beginning of the book. There's Nickelback in there, which is awful. But I tweeted about it with the author and she said it was nowhere in the book, which she was totally right about. Just skip the playlist and you'll be fine.