Cassidy Emmerich discovers that her boyfriend, Gavin, was cheating on her with another girl and the last thing she wants to do is be reminded of him all summer. Her father and stepmother own a bed and breakfast in Crest Haven, New Jersey, so Cassidy decides to spend the summer with her father’s family to escape Gavin and have a relaxing summer. In Crest Haven, she befriends a group of teenagers while working with them as a camp counselor at the local community center. She especially has a connection with Bryan Lakewood, a boy who lost the use of his legs after a tragic accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. Bryan and Cassidy team up to work on a camp scavenger hunt together and along the way they start to develop deeper feelings for each other. When Gavin shows up in Crest Haven to try to get Cassidy back, she is torn between going back to being Gavin’s girlfriend and taking a risk with Bryan and their new relationship.
Constantine uses the alternating voices of Cassidy and Bryan to share both of their perspectives which gives the reader more insight into the story than if it was told by only one of the characters. Cassidy has a hard time fitting in with all of the Crest Haven teenagers since she isn’t from the area, and teens who have moved to a different place can relate to her in that way. Bryan remains positive most of the time throughout the novel despite his condition, but he struggles with the fact that people treat him differently because he is disabled. He could be viewed as a very inspirational character to those who have overcome a challenge in their lives. This novel highlights the fact that disabled people are still human and that they should be treated the same as everyone else. Both characters have strong groups of friends and family who care about them and the theme of love and support is very prevalent in the novel. Cassidy’s family and friends do not question her judgment when she reveals that she has feelings for Bryan, and Bryan’s friends are excited that he found someone who brightens his life. Anyone who is looking for a unique and satisfying teenage love story should check out The Season of You & Me.
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Taylor Lukens is a star soccer player, a member of the debate team, and a candidate for valedictorian at her private high school in St. Andrews, in Tennessee. Her academic success, in addition to her father’s fame as senator, makes her a great candidate to be accepted into Yale, the school her family members have attended. When Taylor is caught with her boyfriend’s Adderall pills, she takes the fall for him and hopes that her family name will save her from punishment, but she gets expelled from St. Andrews instead. Taylor now has to attend the public high school, Hundred Oaks High, for her senior years because her parents and school administrators are convinced that she has a drug addiction problem. With her chances of getting into Yale slim, Taylor starts to realize that her lifelong dream of taking over her family’s finance company is not looking as appealing as she thought. When her brother’s old friend Ezra comes back to town, Taylor starts to realize that her expulsion opened her eyes to more possibilities than just Yale.
Fans of Kenneally’s work will be familiar with the setting and characters that have been featured in her other six novels, so Defending Taylor easily fits into the small, Tennessean community that Kenneally had previously established. This novel, however, does not require any prior knowledge about the characters or the setting. Those who have read Racing Savannah, also by Kenneally, will recognize Jack and Savannah when they make a guest appearance in Defending Taylor. This story heavily stresses the importance of hard work and how dropping a name is not always the way to success. Even when Taylor is expelled and it appears like she has no chance of getting into Yale, she is still determined to correct her mistakes so the admissions officers give her a chance. A love interest is a typical feature in Kenneally’s novels, and she does not disappoint her fans in Defending Taylor. Any teenage girl who has had a crush on one of her brother’s friends will be able to relate to the way Taylor feels about her brother’s friend Ezra. While Taylor has feelings for Ezra, she is also a strong, independent young woman who can hold her own without relying on a guy. She takes a stand against the mean girl on her soccer team, and she confronts her parents about her feelings about college. Any reader who has enjoyed Kenneally’s other novels should check out Defending Taylor as their next good read.
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