Winner Take All by Laurie Devore
For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.
For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.
They both have everything to lose.
Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.
Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?
Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.
2.5 Stars. Oy. Ok. I have a lot of thoughts. And I’m sorry, I hate writing ranty reviews, and I always want to be nice and considerate even in my negative ones. A lot of people will honestly enjoy this book very much, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, probably because of the life I’ve lived. So maybe its just me.
First of all, I LOVE the cover. I’m so sad it didn’t work for me, but like a friend and I were discussing earlier today – I think several of my friends will actually really enjoy this book.
Also, before I go any further, I want to leave some disclaimers so you know what to expect. I’m not saying I disagree with the author throwing these heavy topics in the book, because I think it’s important to show real life issues, but I’m going to point them out. There’s A LOT of sex. Not in detail, but the very topic is woven heavily throughout the pages. Heavy teen drinking. Possible pregnancy. Anxiety + mental issues + depression. Family issues / cheating. (Thankfully, the author put links in the back for anyone suffering from some of those issues. I really appreciated that).
Anyway, I was SO excited as I was reading the first 30% of this book. It seemed like a fun, angsty, hate-to-love. I’m not the type of person who reads a lot of contemporary – I like to stick to fantasy. But I make an exception sometimes for a really fun hate-to-love story full of crazy drama and blah blah. I really thought that’s what I was going to get here. And trust me, that’s certainly the theme, but I was left with a sour taste. More on this in a minute.
I will say this- there are some fun bits to the story, sure. It was addicting and difficult to put down. I certainly felt like I was in Nell’s head. And the plot twist with Jackson really threw me – I should have seen it coming but I didn’t.
Blah. Listen – I get it. I get that men and women are not held to the same standards a lot of the time. I know that women often have to apologize for things that men don’t. I know this book meant to challenge that. I know the author wanted to show a flawed heroine and challenge the whole idea of men getting away with crap girls can’t.
But the heroine hardly had ANY redeeming qualities. No, I wouldn’t brush aside a male character that was this mean either, so don’t even go there. I just had a very hard time with this book because it was all just nasty behavior after nasty behavior, with very few lessons learned (or at least, the whole ‘realization of wrongdoing’ part was muddy at best. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’m not trying to be hurtful, and maybe this will speak to other people, but it just made me angry. Nell never thought more than a second about anyone but herself and how to one-up EVERYONE. She treated her friends horribly, and yes there were end apologies, but it wasn’t enough for me. I kept trying to search for *some* semblance of compassion in her, but I found none. Her only redeeming quality was that she was a hard worker. But so are a million other people.
And then there was the whole mess with a middle-class girl competing against upper-class rich kids. Yeah, I get that. I was the poor girl (and I mean ACTUALLY poor… as in our family lived off the church pantry donated food and wore clothes from the goodwill one dollar rack that never fit. We were kicked from home to home. And, I went to school with insanely wealthy kids. I know what its like to be made fun of for not wearing brand named clothes, or to be told you’re too skinny and you need to eat – when you’d give anything for that lunch money.) I’m sorry, but I didn’t feel bad one bit for Nell’s sob story over how the rich kids would get anything they wanted and she had to work for it. This was a giant Nell pity party + revenge book.
Let me tell you – she didn’t have nothing, but by the way she acted, you would think she did. She didn’t have to worry about if she had enough money to eat lunch. She had a home that had air conditioning and heat. She was able to participate in physical activities. She had rich friends who actually genuinely loved her.
She had SO MUCH PRIVILEGE. So much.
And her relationship with Jackson? My gosh. She gave him so much shit about not opening up, but when he finally bears his heart to her, she literally BITCHES AT HIM FOR IT lol. Like… girl…. come on. I don’t know what Jackson saw in her. Sure, he did some messed up stuff, and maybe this is just my opinion, but she was way worse. Maybe I missed something or misinterpreted something. Idk.
Yes, girls and boys should be held to the same standard. But I don’t have to like Nell. She was just plain mean. If she were a boy, I would feel the same way. I like my fair share of problematic guys and problematic, flawed heroines. I’ll admit that. But I found that I could at least relate to them in some way, or feel for them. I just didn’t feel for Nell.
Anyway, lol, like I said, I think a lot of people will like this book. I don’t regret reading it and there were some really fun parts and great lines, but blah. I am just mentally exhausted. And a bit angry.
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