Book Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

12551077Stealing Parker
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire
October 1, 2012
245 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

Synopsis
Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan’s Hundred Oaks High.

After a scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won’t turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys–a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far…especially when he starts flirting back.(Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

Bubblegum Pink is the nail polish of the day.

My Take On It

Miranda Kenneally has done it again, I absolutely loved Stealing Parker, even more than last year’s Catching Jordan, which was all sorts of awesome as well. I actually read both books back to back and since neither are super long and feature many of the same characters, this worked out for me really well. I feel like I know Parker, Will, Drew, Jj, Brian, Sam Henry, Jordan and the rest of the gang at Hundred Oaks High personally. I love each and very one of those characters and loved the new ones Kenneally introduces in Stealing Parker.

Kenneally shines in her development of characters. I liked Jordan Woods a whole lot, but I can RELATE to Parker Shelton in a way that I just didn’t with Jordan. I love that she’s dealing with some serious family drama, and that she makes the oh, so human mistake of dealing with it in a less than healthy way. Gosh, haven’t all of us done something like that at some point in our lives? It makes Parker SO real, so human. She’s a good girl who has unintentionally set herself up with a bad reputation and as we first meet Parker it’s starting to catch up with her. Because of the family drama, her mom coming out and then moving out of town and in with her girlfriend, Parker has decided that she’s going to prove to the world (or at least her school and church) that she most definitely likes boys. Problem is, she’s been burned by her mom’s desertion and now has real issues with intimacy. She’s become the queen of the kiss and run. Love ’em and leave ’em fast. It’s a great way to keep your heart from being broken, and an even better way to ruin your reputation. Luckily Parker has her best friend Drew, and Drew doesn’t judge her.

Another thing Parker did away with after her mom left was her spot on her high school softball team. Parker loved softball, but it too closely connected to her mom, so it had to go. When Drew talks Parker into becoming the manager of his baseball team, she eventually agrees. Parker will do just about anything for Drew.

In Catching Jordan, Jordan was the captain and leader of her high school football team. And in that book football played a major role because it was Jordan’s life. In Stealing Parker, the sport is baseball (and softball) but the sport and the lifestyle that accompanies it isn’t focused on as heavily. Whereas Jordan was the team leader and was best friends with all of her teammates, Parker becomes the manager of the baseball team and is seen as a little sister to some of the players, and as jezebel to others. Parker is friends with the guys, but it’s definitely a different kind of friendship than Jordan has with her team. In that regard I missed many of Jordan’s friends, especially Jj who stole my heart in Catching Jordan.

This might also be a good time to mention that you really need to read Catching Jordan first, because many of the same characters return in Stealing Parker (Woo Hoo, the return of Sam Henry, be still my heart!!) and the events in Stealing Parker take place after the events in Catching Jordan. In other words there is some spoilery in Stealing Parker, so make sure you read Catching Jordan first.

There is a love triangle of sorts in Stealing Parker but it is one of those triangles where it is VERY clear which relationship is the right one.  From the above summary you know that Parker falls for the older assistant baseball coach, Brian Hoffman, but the other love interest isn’t clear right away. At least it wasn’t to me. This is cool because a) I like surprises and b) it shows that there is no insta-love and the characters get to know each other well before they start falling for each other. Again, authentic and realistic!

I loved both of these love interests. Neither were perfect but they were perfect in their imperfections. There were admirable and not-so admirable qualities to both and I had sympathy for both as well. There are no ‘bad guys’ in Stealing Parker. There are people who make misguided decisions and there are people who do some not so nice things, but for the most part all of the characters are good at heart.

Stealing Parker is also racier than Catching Jordan. There are PLENTY of swoonworthy scenes in this one. I mean like WHOA. But like Catching Jordan I think Stealing Parker is very sex positive. Sex is approached honestly and responsibly and  there is no guilt and shaming. I love when an author is able to present sexual relationships this way. Miranda Kenneally GETS IT RIGHT.

Kenneally also takes a look at some relevant issues in Stealing Parker, issues that weren’t really touched on in Catching Jordan: religion being one and homosexuality being the other.  Normally I dislike a lot of religious themes in the books I read. It’s a touchy subject and one that has to be handled just right. Too much can read as overtly preachy. I’m happy to report that Kenneally again gets it right.

Parker has always been a church goer and “good Christian” girl, but when her mother leaves, scandal ensues and Parker, her brother and her dad are thrown into the middle of it. Each handle the situation differently, but Parker finds herself pulling away from her faith. Like Jordan with her journal, Parker writes letters or prayers to God, questioning why things happened the way they did. Parker’s faith is tested as her church and some friends turn against her. When Parker starts earning her bad reputation she only makes matters worse. I LOVE this part of Stealing Parker. I love that Parker asks those questions that many of us have asked at some point in our life. How can a good and loving God let bad things happen to others, including ourselves? I think this is a message that is very important and relevant. I love that Kenneally puts it out there because I think it’s important teenagers know it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to asks questions. No one is alone in that regard.

The same can be said for the issues of homosexuality that arise in Stealing Parker. Now this book doesn’t center around homosexuality, but it does take a look at it and how the different characters in the book feel about it. All in all I think Kenneally handles the subject really well.  Guys I think it is so  important that YA books tackle these subjects because hey, it’s a very real reflection of our world. From Parker’s strained relationship with her lesbian mom, to finding out about another friend’s homosexuality, Kenneally treats the subject with respect and care and she gets a double thumbs up from me for that.

There are more similarities between Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker: the most striking one being that both Jordan and Parker are survivors. Both take some hits but never let themselves be defeated. And there are terrific moments of girl power in both books, moments of real fist pumping, and positive messages for girls of all ages. In fact the dedication of Stealing Parker reads:

For all the girls, struggling to find their place.

How perfect is that? 🙂

I also love the strong themes of friends and family found in both books. If I had any complaints about Stealing Parker it would be that while I loved Drew and Parker’s other friends, I sure did miss Jj and the others. Gosh, I just love those guys and loved that friendship dynamic that was going on in Catching Jordan.

As far as family goes, Kenneally thankfully gives the parental units in both books their due. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: YA books that take out the parents (or similar caregivers) really sell themselves short. Some of the best YA books I have read recently don’t treat the parents as absentee family members and instead feature them heavily, letting them play an important role in the story. I think it’s a missed opportunity when an author throws the parents away and I love that Kenneally avoids this in both of her books.

So in summation, I LOVED this book. I devoured it in one sitting and feel like those people in Franklin,Tennessee are my friends and family. I love the positive messages that are found in this book. I love that this book is as much about forgiveness, both of others and yourself, as it is about not giving up on yourself when the going gets rough. I CANNOT wait for Kenneally’s next book, Things I Can’t Forget, which will also take place in Franklin, Tennessee and feature all these wonderful Keneally characters I have grown to love.

Notable Quote:

“When God created Earth, he had such a sick, wicked sense of humor. He made everything that’s wrong feel really, really good.”

4.5/5 Stars