*I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review on behalf of ROYAL*
Maddie Brooks is the new girl, something she never imagined would happen with the beginning of her junior year on the horizon. She had big plans for Chicago and moving to small town Texas wasn't on the agenda. Luckily, her new school has a great drama department and Maddie excels at fitting in. With insanely high standards for guys, it's highly unlikely than anyone will come close to the singing and dancing perfection of Maddie's classic Hollywood crush, Gene Kelly. She is conflicted when her afternoon carpools with her good looking and charismatic neighbor, Jesse Morales, reveal that he just might the perfect guy. Tensions rise through this relationship of self discovery--especially both characters' struggles with life choices, identity and communication.
What I liked...
This is a relatable, evenly paced realistic read with specific interest for romance readers. The characters are well developed and feel authentic as do their struggles. There is a good amount of humor, angst and classic charm. The novel itself will appeal to genre readers who also enjoy Sarah Dessen, Katie McGarry, Meg Cabot and the like. Bonus, if you have YA readers who are involved in theater, dance, or the arts.
What I didn't like...
There is a lot of potential for Rae to go deeper into Jesse's story. He feels immensely weighed down by parental pressures and ethnic stereotypes but this isn't explored to the lengths that felt satisfying to the reader. We get glimpses of his pressure from his father to perform well in baseball, forsaking his talent and love for dance, and the final turnaround; however, we're left wanting more.
What You Always Wanted is the 8th book in the If Only series published by a handful of authors from Bloomsbury. I highly recommend these for purchase in a public or school library setting. There is mass appeal for the target audiences (ages 14 and up).
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Follow the author on Twitter: @kristincreative
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