Friday, June 27, 2014

Early Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

by Kristi Cook
Read: May 2, 2014
August 5, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, S&S)
Category: Contemporary YA, south

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.


Magnolia is a light, sweet romance with a southern flair. 

What I liked best about this story:

1) Characters. Jemma is a cheerleader who is a great shot with a gun and (secretly) wants to go to film school. She has two best friends, one of whom is a beauty pageant winner who is excited when she gets nominated to homecoming court. I like that Jemma and her friends celebrate each other's accomplishments. There is no talk of mean girls in this story. Ryder, Jemma's nemesis/love interest is the star quarterback, and though that's an important part of him, it's not everything, and it's not at all why Jemma is interested (or not) in him. The focus of this book is not popularity, which I very much appreciated. 

2) This book is Romeo and Juliet in reverse. Jemma and Ryder's families want them to be together. They are so over the top about it that it's made Jemma decide that is exactly what she does NOT want. I can completely relate to this. Like Jemma, I wasn't an overly rebellious teen, but I would have wanted to do the opposite of my parents wishes too, both in whom to date and where to go to college. On the other hand, I've totally had that dream of my children marrying my best friend's kids. I love that Jemma and Ryder know so much about each other from their families co-mingling, which has added to the tension between them in recent years. This is a great hate to love story, or is it love to love?  
"Can you imagine how different things would be of our families hated each other? If they were feuding like the First Methodists and the Calvary Baptists?" 
"I bet it'd be a whole lot less complicated, to tell you the truth. Heck, we probably would've already run off together or something by now."
3) I love the southern Mississippi small town setting, especially the weather.  The old rambling homes, the close community, and traditions, even if that means lots of gossip. I'm desperate for one of those sleeping porches like Jemma has. But this part of the country also means crazy storms, which completely freak me out. Jemma and Ryder get stuck together during a hurricane with tornadoes thrown into the mix. That section of the book was intense, but also filled with fantastic tension between them. That was definitely my favorite part of the story. They are forced to work together, confront their fears and support each other. It's an intensive bonding time that forces their feelings for each other out into the open, and changes the course of their relationship (thankfully). 

4) Build up. I very much enjoyed watching Jemma and Ryder fall for each other. Or rather, recognize that they had already fallen for each other. They have great banter, and lots of fights and awkward moments, but all of that is born of a high comfort level from knowing each other their entire lives. I liked the honesty in their relationship, especially when they are forced to comfort their feelings. These two have misunderstandings and fight, but they also don't let each other get off easily. As light as this book was, I could see depth in their relationship that made me believe in them a couple. 

And what I didn't love so much:

5) Patrick. At the beginning of this book, Jemma goes out a few times with a boy in her school named Patrick. He's obviously a Decoy Boy. As usual, it's almost immediately clear that Patrick is not a great match for Jemma, and that she is not that into him. I thought his portion of the story dragged on too long. Especially, because it was so obvious that he was a bad match. Thankfully, she does figure this out before the storm hits, and  it's definitely worth it to get to the good parts, so don't worry if that is your fear. Although he does also end up playing a bit of a larger role in the plot, I'm just over the inclusion of this character. 

But overall, I truly adorned Magnolia and, especially, Jemma and Ryder. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild in the beginning. None as a whole
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 


  1. That sounds wonderful! I haven't read anything by Kristi Cook before, but this one sounds cute. I love the "romeo and Juliet" theme - reversed :)
    And you also got me by mentioning their great banter and some awkwardness! I'm all in :)

  2. I agree completely, Lauren--the Patrick plot line was so unnecessary and I felt as if his story arc was unexpected and apathetic too since we cared so little for him. Either the that, this book was such a perfect pass-time read and I definitely adored the build-up here and the way it was written alongside these weather conditions. Wonderful review, Lauren!(:

  3. I think this was on my tbr and I completely forgot about it. After your reading your review, I'm going to make sure I read it when it comes out. I love the R+J in reverse and it sounds like it works well.

  4. Jemma sounds wonderful and refreshing! And I love interest and the situation sound so awesome! Also, a small town romance? Yessss! Love me some. It's always a bound to seeing each other everywhere and not avoiding confrontation in awkward situations so that's a good thing for a reader. I love me some tension like that. Heh, and there was good build up? Yay! I'm sorry you didn't like the pseudo-love-triangle of sorts. Figures lol. Seems like such a good tale and I'm all excited for a book that I didn't even plan on reading ;) Thank you, Lauren!

  5. I read this one last week and really enjoyed reading it. Like you said, the characters were so great. These were definitely not stereotypical ones at all. I also loved the small town feel and the Southern setting was a definite bonus. I'm also with you on the Decoy boy. He was just annoying, but I was upset after that thing that happens to me.
    Lovely review, Lauren! I'm happy you loved this one as well. :)

  6. This sounds absolutely charming and fantastic, and I think I would really like it. I LOVE the Southern parts you mention and found myself swooning over that part of your review more than the actual romance portion. (: I'm definitely planning on trying to get my hands on this somehow. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention, L!

  7. D'oh. Decoy boy? That's not good! Plus, he sounds like he needed to exit the story much earlier. And I adore books set in the South. I just can't help it.

  8. Yay! I read Magnolia this week and found myself so so so addicted and distracted -- I didn't want to do anything else. The setting definitely won me over & I loved the push and pull between Ryder and Jemma. Totally agree with you about Patrick... would have preferred for the author to talk more about the sister relationship or maybe a friendship with one of the other girls. (Like Lucy and the vintage dress shopping -- that would have been a fun scene.) Post-hurricane the tone really changed and I was hoping for just a teenie tiny bit more. But all in all, super fun book & it made me want to go on a trip to Mississippi. So romantic.

  9. This book sounds so cute, a perfect summer read. Great review! ~Pam

  10. Hmph. I don't agree about that boy in the beginning of the book that you mention. I would not approve, lol. So I don't think I want to read this book :D Though I do love that cover. <3 So beautiful. Sigh. I'm glad you enjoyed this book sweetie :) I do think the romance sounds pretty good ;p

  11. I don't read a ton of contemporary YA, especially romance, but this sounds pretty entertaining. Great review!

  12. Honestly the main reason I'm intrigued is because I keep seeing people refer to it as a reverse "Romeo and Juliet." I'm interested as to whether this is an intentional fractured retelling, but either way I do love it when stories rely on older, well-used tropes in new and innovative ways.
    This sounds like the perfect sort of book to read on a porch drinking sweet tea. Or during a crazy storm. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, despite the appearance of a Decoy Boy!

  13. Romeo and Juliet in reverse...sounds awesome. Love the southern setting, too, being from Texas and all. ;) I need to hurry and read this!

  14. Great review, Lauren! I love how you listed everything out, and I think I will feel the exact same way. I'm a little nervous about the "first boy", but I trust you. Hopefully I won't be too annoyed with how long it drags out. Otherwise the development of the main romance sounds fantastic, and I love the idea of them being stuck in a storm together, forced to work out their issues. Will definitely be buying this one at the book store!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...