Edgier Dallen. This is Dallen going in a direction she hasn’t in a fair amount of time – still HS / YA romance… but this time with edgier language (even… *GASP*… a *few* curse words!!!) and situations (including one memorable barely-there bikini and some extensive making out and glancing at certain areas). And she nails it, as usual. What will be remembered about this book though is really the somewhat abrupt ending. It will arguably spark debates of whether she should have gone even more atypical and wrote one 300 ish page book, and thus that she deliberately cut this story in half, or whether the approach here was fine, that she told one complete story here that happens to have a bit of a cliffhanger ending. To be honest, it was a war that waged in my own mind for many hours (while in and out of consciousness with some kind of illness). But you can see from the 5* I gave this book that ultimately I came down on the side of this being one complete story that happens to have a cliffhanger ending, and thus the full 5* rating. Very much recommended – and I very much want the next book *now*. 😀
Solid Tale Of Striking Out On Your Own. Dallen and Benjamin have been writing separate entries in common series for a while now, but this was the first time (at least since I’ve been reading either of them) that they actually co-wrote a book together. Their styles have been similar enough to work in separate books, and here they blend so well that I’m not sure I could say which author wrote which perspective. Overall the tale is full of the fun-yet-serious approach both authors use so well, and really does do an excellent exploration of two different perspectives on young adults feeling the pull to strike out on their own and see just what they are made of. Very much recommended.
Standard Dallen But Enhanced Dallen! With this book, you get a standard Maggie Dallen story – think Hallmark High School – but this time, Dallen has done something I don’t think she has done before – use flashbacks as a regular part of the narrative. I’m not sure if she’s even used the technique before at all, but this is almost certainly the first time she’s used it as a regular part of the story. And she executes it very well indeed, in the standard version of slowly showing the history of how things got to where we know they exist while showing the people involved continuing their lives in the present. Solid story, and I love the experimentation as a writer. Very much recommended.
Can You Really Date Your Fake Date? Ultimately, Dallen decides to try to answer that question here, and has a lot of fun doing so. Another largely fun, very Hallmarkie type tale of one person with a traumatic backstory coming back to the hometown they fled only to ignite a romance with the person they thought they could never have. If that is the type of story you’re after, you’ll love this tale because that is *exactly* what you get here. Well executed, as always with Dallen, and with its moments of both fun and angst, this is a well balanced romance tale through and through. Very much recommended.
More Spinning! This series has been a spinoff from another series where Benjamin worked with a couple of other authors and each wrote one book in the trilogy. Here, Benjamin prepares to spinoff yet again and opens up the world in a bit of an interesting new direction while having at least one direct callback to another book in this world. Discussed the actual sport in question a bit more than is typical within these books, without sacrificing the focus on the couple in question, and also has a few “extra perspective” chapters that Benjamin has seemingly taken as part of her style here. Very much recommended.
Appearances… Can Be Deceiving. The RB who happens to be a local rock god. The ice queen Prima Donna. Both have secrets. Who will reveal theirs first? This series took some very unexpected turns here, and Meyer’s partnership continues to be felt on Dallen’s normal work. Overall stronger because of the unexpected turns, this is a solid middle outing in a series and manages to clue us in that there are troubles between the couple for the next book in the process. Very much recommended.
Solid Conclusion. This is Book 3 of a quick novella series – no one book is much more than 100 pages, and the back 2 are under that mark – and as such both of the prior books should be read first. Though at least in this one, that isn’t as imperative as in the second book. Even though the timelines continue to coincide, there is not as much from the first two books that directly shows here as there was in the 2nd book, mostly due to the more limited number of appearances of these two primary characters in the first two. But this does finally get us to the Valentine’s Dance that is the official “big reveal” of the series, and even manages to tie back to (and provide minor spoilers of) the book that this series serves as a spinoff of. Very much recommended.
Shorter and More Intense Than Book 1. This is book 2 in a new novella trilogy Dallen has created in the world of a previous book. Tall Dark and Nerdy. And while this book is roughly 15 pages shorter than the first one, you really do need to read the first one first, as it handles most of the overall trilogy setup heavy lifting. Very good in its own right, this one switches tropes from fake dating to best friends to lovers. Very much recommended.
Short and Intense. This is a quick read at just over 100 pages, solid “fake dating” HS romance set in the world of Tall, Dark, and Nerdy and spinning off a new short trilogy where a group of kids try to prove the Love Quiz app is bogus. Here, we get the setup and the first couple – the couple that the app should never match, but that the experiment tries to force the app to match. Short and fun in a Hallmark Movie kind of way, this is an excellent quick distraction from the “real” world. Very much recommended.
Nemesis Mine. This is a short yet heavier-than-many standard Maggie Dallen “Hallmarkie” high school romance. There’s still some laughter, but particularly in its final pages it really starts landing some haymakers that are not really typical of Dallen at all. Still, when you need something to dive into a rich, well developed “fake” world to escape the “real” one with all of its issues right now… this is a solid distraction for a couple of hours or so. Very much recommended.