by Kristi Cook
Read: May 2, 2014
Published: 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?"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).
"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."
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