Title: Foreplay (Ivy Chronicles, #1)
Author: Sophie Jordan
Rating: 4 Stars
Do me a favor and disregard everything you've heard about this book. (Especially if you've read the synopsis.) And, while you're at it, throw out those pre-conceived notions you may have looking at the cover or title of this novel.
Hmm...ready to listen? Foreplay is, in a few simple words, a genuinely good New Adult title.
Now that you've gone off in a huff, called me crazy, shut down your laptops and hastily logged back in, I'll use a few more words, shall I?
Jordan's Foreplay is about Pepper. From the first page itself, Pepper is in love with Hunter Montgomery, her best friend's older brother. Unlike the Montgomery's, Pepper's life has been far from perfect. Instead of a nuclear family she's dealt with a deceased father and missing mother, being brought up by her grandmother. Instead of family vacations to Disney land and an atmosphere of safety, Pepper has never been able to let go of the past she led running from one place to the next when her mother was still around. Needless to say, for as long as Pepper can remember, Hunter Montgomery has been the symbol of all she has ever hoped for: safety, security, and love. Now that he's finally single, though, after two years in a committed relationship, Pepper has no idea how to woo him over.
Enter: Reece. Or, as most people would rather call him, sexy bartender. While Reece isn't the type of guy Pepper would ever go for - and neither is the goody-two-shoes beauty the type of girl he'd usually pick either - the two are strangely drawn to one another. And Pepper, hoping for an experienced guy to teach her a few tricks of the trade, happily launches onto Reece to become that person. What she doesn't expect is the unexpected intimacy - and genuine feeling - that creeps into her heart after spending so much time with him. After all this time, is Hunter really the one she wants? Or is it someone else?
Although Foreplay doesn't necessarily sound as original as, say, mutant zombies in space wielding katanas and riding space unicorns (I just made that up...), in comparison to other New Adult reads, it genuinely does stand out. (Besides, isn't the summary I just gave you far better than the nasty internet rumor going around of Foreplay being about a girl who wants to lose her virginity?)
1. This is a story about broken people who do NOT heal one another. Both Reece and Pepper haven't lead the best or more comfortable lives, but they fall in love despite those issues, not because they expect to change each others lives. Moreover, Jordan never sugarcoats their romance. Every issue that Reece and Pepper start out with in the beginning of the book is carried over to the end, but that only strengthens the bond between these two.
2. Zero Slut Shaming. Zero. First off, Pepper doesn't want to lose her virginity in this book. She is more than happy to stay a virgin until she finds the right guy, but she doesn't look down upon those with different attitudes either. Are there still women who "thrust their cleavage" and what-not? Of course, but these are treated as observations and never explicitly remarked upon, which I appreciated. It's all too common for New Adult books to veer into sexism or misogyny because alpha-males are trying to hard, but Jordan avoids that issue with this book quite adeptly.
3. Friends. Real Ones. Emerson and Georgia, Pepper's close college friends, though leading different lifestyles than Pepper are watching out for her regardless. If she isn't comfortable in a situation and they're about to land a hot date, they do the right thing and make sure Pepper gets home instead of ditching her for their one-night stand. Friendship. It exists in NA. *gasp*
4. College Exams/Dorm Life/Jobs. Everyone in this book is young, but they deal with regular activities like a job, parties, exams, having dorm rooms and suite mates. It's so blessedly normal and the fact that this existence is even acknowledged outside the romance is a plus point in favor of this novel. (Yes, that's how bad NA has gotten...)
5. A respectful romance. What I really appreciated with this one was how little angst was present. Reece knows that Pepper wants Hunter for safety and comfort and though he has feelings for her - and her for him that she refuses to acknowledge - he's mature and let's her find her way on her own without ever forcing himself on her. Reece only goes as far as Pepper is willing, never telling her that she'll enjoy more or trying to please only himself. It's a strong, mutual relationship in which both parties give and take, compromising in a realistic, but equal, manner.
If those aren't five promising reasons to pick this one up, then I don't know what are! Seriously - give this one a shot. You won't be disappointed.
P.S. - If you are a frequent user of GoodReads, then I'd encourage checking out Emily May's NA Experiment which has never led me astray. If you aren't already aware of this, I'd urge you to keep track of these reviews. Not only have they helped me find decent NA reads, but they're wonderfully written too. Thanks Emily May! :)