At this point, I don't read that many young adult books anymore. Not that I am against them, but there just usually aren't that many that really grab my attention. When I read the blurb for Rival Love by Natalie Decker though, I really wanted to get that story. I love a good enemies to lovers story, and I am a sucker for books with sports in them. Rival Love is the debut novel from Natalie Decker, so I was a little apprehensive about it but was hoping for the best. While I did enjoy a lot of this story, I also had some things that I didn't enjoy. I think that this was a good debut despite everything I had issues with though and I would look for more from Natalie Decker in the future.
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Bulldog! She lives for her sports, friends and boyfriend. She has her future all mapped out and has positioned herself to be as successful as possible. But when her mom decides to move in with her boyfriend Brian, Skylar knows her life is about to change. As if moving in with Brian wasn't bad enough, he lives in Bobcat territory and is also a teacher there. Skylar knows that she will never fit in with the Bobcats, but things quickly go from bad to worse when she finds out that Brian's nephew that lives with them is non other than Caleb Morgan the popular quarterback for the Bobcats. Caleb and Skylar want nothing to do with one another and agree to keep their living situation a secret from everyone at school. As they start to get to know one another though, they begin to see that they aren't as different as they thought they were. As their attraction and feelings continue to grow, they both begin to wonder if there is any way a bulldog and a bobcat could be together?
One of my favorite things about YA books is that they aren't usually as serious and tend to be more playful in nature. Rival Love definitely had that fun and flirty feel to it, and I loved Caleb and Skylar's pranks. It was so much fun to see them being playful with one another even while they didn't really like each other, and I couldn't wait to see what they would do next. I thought that Caleb was a little gruff at times and he made some bad choices. But I also saw that he was a different guy than you first think, and he really started to care about Skylar. I liked that she brought out his protective side and that he would look out for her even if he did it without being obvious about it or anyone knowing. Skylar was smart and dedicated, and I can't imagine being put in the position she was. It would have been so hard to lose everything as a teenager like that and I thought that she handled it pretty well all things considered. I really liked watching Caleb and Skylar get to know one another, and start to open up to the idea of more between them.
I did have some issues with this story though. First, I didn't understand why Skylar was forced to switch schools. I understand that she moved, but it was mentioned more than once that it was a private school. If that was really the case then location of residence wouldn't have mattered and she could have still attended her former school as long as she took care of her commute. It just didn't work for me and was the basis of the story, which really bothered me. If the school would have been public instead of being said to be private, it wouldn't have been an issue at all. I also didn't understand why Caleb was with Danielle at all in this story. He didn't like her, his friends didn't like her, and there was really no point other than to start some drama and conflict. Just didn't work for me. I also thought that there were portions of this story that could have easily been omitted and wouldn't have changed the story at all. But for me the biggest problem I had was the ending. Things are left unresolved and on a cliffhanger. It felt rushed and abrupt, and I was left feeling completely unsatisfied. I assumed this was a standalone story based on the blurb and the fact that it was never mentioned to have a sequel, but I am really hoping that that is not the case. I feel like what readers were left with was fine as long as there will be more, but if there isn't another book coming I think that most readers will be left wanting more and unhappy with the ending. I do think that this was a good start for Natalie Decker despite everything, and I am hoping that she continues to tell Caleb and Skylar's story in another book in the future.
**ARC Provided by YA Bound Book Tours**
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