Review | Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles Review

Posted March 20, 2014 by Asheley in review, Uncategorized / 6 Comments

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
Series: Wild Cards #1
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: October 1, 2013

342 Pages
Source: Book – Publisher, Audiobook – Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain–people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all? (from Goodreads) 

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles 

My Thoughts:  Pretty early into reading and listening to Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles, I realized that this book was exactly the quick and easy escape I was looking for. 


The book opens as high school junior Derek Fitzpatrick gets expelled from his school for pulling a pretty impressive prank. With his father serving military time away, Derek is set to move from California to Chicago with his young, pregnant stepmother. Derek is not happy at all to make the move from a place that he loves to stepmother Brandy’s homeplace, but he really has no choice…and this is how he ends up meeting Ashtyn Parker. Well, actually, he ends up meeting Ashtyn when she mistakes him for an intruder and stabs his foot with a pitchfork. Because Brandy never really shared details of either of her families with the other, Ashtyn and Derek each had no idea that the other existed – no clue that they’d be moving in/living with a new “family member” that is both the same age and extremely attractive. Wild Cards is the story of how these two met, became acclimated to each other, and learned to live with one another while also ignoring and then accepting the fact that they were also falling in love. This is a very basic description of this story, because believe me when I say that the story is very basic. BUT that is not always necessarily a negative thing. 


While not perfect, I liked Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles. I mean, truthfully, everyone needs a book like this in his or her back pocket for a rainy day. I was able to alternate reading in print with listening to this one in audiobook format easily – I had no trouble at all keeping up with minor details because the details were very EASY and this is a story that I feel I have read before but never grows old (to me):  Guy and girl have secret crush but pretend to not like each other…guy and girl get to know one another better…guy and girl make each other frustrated/angry and have a falling-out…guy and girl finally admit what the reader knew from the beginning. Voila! Happy ending. 

Derek Fitzpatrick is the handsome, popular guy from his California school – he’s lived in several places, so he’s known as the cowboy-boot-wearing/has-a-Southern-accent guy that also wears a knit hat and eats super healthy food. He’s a mixture of Texas and California. He did live at school until he was expelled and then was horrified to find that he’d have to move to Chicago until his father returned from his military service later. Derek hated moving but knew that he would have to make the best of it, so that’s what he did. I liked his character because he is a very no-frills, down-to-earth, nice guy. When Derek arrived to his new home in Chicago, he immediately saw that it needed some work and began working on it – yard work, maintenance, things like that – in order to keep his mind occupied and keep himself busy in a place where he was “the new guy.” He had no idea that his stepmother had a younger sister that was his age so when he stumbled into her in the shed, he was surprised. He was even more freaked out when she assumed he was a “thug” from another part of Chicago and stabbed him in the foot, then locked him in there. 

Ashtyn Parker is a tough cookie. I don’t mean “tough cookie” like butt-kicking female – I mean she was a little tough for me to take a few times. She flat-out got on my nerves, okay? But I stuck with her anyway. Ashtyn is Captain of the football team, dates another football player (for at least a few pages, then they break up), and is pretty well-liked by her friends and teammates. YES she is a female football player and YES that is addressed in the book – Ashtyn has personal reasons for choosing a male-dominated sport. She has worked hard at it and has made plans to play in college. The thing that irked me about Ashtyn is she was rude, snarky, and judgmental of Derek from the very beginning, and her attitude about him stunk. I MEAN, IT STUNK. Even when he was always nice to her, she was rarely nice to him – at least in the beginning. Even as she began to warm up to him, she still was quick to be rude and hasty to judge him. Tsk, tsk. FURTHER: once Ashtyn decided that she didn’t dislike Derek so much and that those feelings she was feeling actually were butterflies because she liked Derek instead of disgust because she couldn’t stand Derek, she almost always completely clammed up around him and CONFUSED THE HECK OUT OF HIM ALMOST ALWAYS. I kind of felt sorry for him in several parts of the book. I think I will chalk up Ashtyn’s strange and annoying behavior to 1) immaturity and 2) not having a good female role model present (nor a good male role model, for that matter). 

I may be being a little bit hard on Ashtyn – in truth, if I’m being honest, she wasn’t miserable all the time. Just a lot of the time. Ashtyn and Derek were actually up and down like a roller coaster. They were on and off like a light switch. It took them FOREVER to decide what they were to each other. Were they housemates-and-also-family that crushed on each other but that’s all? Or were they friends-with-benefits but that’s all? Or were they going to be Ashtyn and Derek, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? 


While all of the Derek-and-Ashtyn ‘drama’ is going on, other things are happening too. Important things. For example: Derek was finding his place within his new home and new family. When he moved to his new life with Brandy, he gained several new family members that he didn’t have before. I loved this because Derek learned to love this, especially where his younger brother was concerned. Derek was able to patch up a broken relationship between himself and an important member of his “real” family, which was pretty great (and also fun to read because this person was a fun character). He was able to heal from some big major hurt that he had experienced when he was younger as a result of his mother’s death, which is AAAHHH character development and also very pleasant to read. Regarding Ashtyn: while all of the relationship drama was going on and while Derek had some big things changing in his life, Ashtyn was wrestling with football issues and also she really missed Derek. 

There is a portion of the story that is a road trip. I love road trips. This road trip is between Derek and Ashtyn and is both funny and annoying, depending on where they are along the journey. My point in bringing it up is that I believe that it is during this trip that the two grow the most in their relationship with each other because they have the most time together, without the distractions of friends and family and home. They are able to learn about each other, how they each interact with the world and problems that arise, how they spend their free time, things like that. Even though I spent a portion of the road trip giving Ashtyn the side-eye and shaking my head at her, I think I enjoyed this portion of the book the most because I feel like it changed the tone of the book and the future of these two people individually and together. 

Ultimately, Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles was a fun and easy familiar-to-me story with two stereotypically stereotypical main characters. It was nothing that I had to think hard about while I was reading. There was no critical thinking or processing anything or re-reading paragraphs to make sure I understood details. I think I will always tend to enjoy stories like this. I think if I could change it, however, I’d use fewer stereotypes for young people, for athletes, for minorities, for those with a lower socioeconomic status, for those in the upper social status, for pretty much almost everyone – I feel like I also felt this same way when I read this book as well. Wild Cards was a good choice at the time I picked it and I’ll keep this series in mind for when I’m ready for another story like this. 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles is published by Dreamscape Media and is 8 hours, 53 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Amy Rubinate and Kirby Heyborne. Both are well-known to me as narrators and I enjoy their work a great deal. Amy Rubinate did a great job as Ashtyn, just as I would expect. I have to point out Kirby Heyborne’s Southern accent while he read Derek – I loved it – and the way he used his inflection and sarcasm and his tone – it was so, so great. I never hesitate to choose audiobooks when I know that either of these two readers is narrating because they always deliver, and they made Wild Cards all the more enjoyable for me. I recommend this audiobook as a first-listen or re-read for anyone that loves listening to stories. 

I recommend Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles by readers that enjoy Young Adult Contemporary Romance, quick, easy stories, and sibling/family relationships. This is the beginning of a series that I will stick around for – I do enjoy these quick, easy, breezy reads. This book has some exaggerated stereotypes present but they are easy to read around if you are looking to enjoy a quick HEA-type story. 


Wild Cards will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Romance: Go ahead and kiss already. You know you want to.
Sibling/Family Relationships
Alternating POV

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for these very laid-back thoughts and they are my own! Thank you Bloomsbury! 


I KNOW some of you have read this. 
What did you think? 

What is your favorite Simone Elkeles book?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


6 responses to “Review | Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles Review

  1. Sounds like a lot going on even for an easy read. I like simple sometimes. Just kicking back by the pool and reading something that reads easily and entertains. Summer is coming, the pool is calling, and I'll be pulling out some summer reads.

  2. Wild Cards was an okay read for me last year. As you've mentioned, it has familiar elements which made it a quick, comfortable sort of novel. It's not the best YA contemporary has to offer, for me, but it's okay overall. Your review really made me think about it though, which I LOVE!

  3. I'm not Simone Elkeles biggest fan – of the three books in the Perfect Chemistry series, I like just one. I think her writing is too cliched for me. Not sure if/when I'll check this one out, but the road trip aspect does peak my interest!

    • Cliche, you're right! Although like Alexa mentioned in her comment above, the familiarity of her voice is sometimes nice, I think. Not the best YA Contemporary has out there – doesn't require much critical thinking – but it has a place, I think.

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