I am not going to lie, I did NOT expect to have this review up so quick. First things first, this blog is basically about #bookporn so I tend to stay away from New Adult or high-school aged books because reading about sex with young adults kind of gives me the “ick”. So I have tend to have to “trust” the author before I dive into a YA/NA book.
Ilsa Madden-Mills is one of those authors for me (alongside L.J. Shen) and I am so happy that’s the case because I truly enjoyed Dear Ava.
Think Big Little Lies meets Gossip Girl in Tennessee. Camden Prep is a private school full of rich, entitled kids whose parents basically run the little town the school is situated in. Football is “king” and there are a group of guys, Sharks, that “rule the school”.
Ava Harris is a bright young mind, but had an extremely rough childhood. Her mother was a drug addict and part-time prostitute, that was hardly ever around, forcing Ava to basically raise herself in homeless shelters and the “tent village” under the bridge. Ava catches her big break when she is awarded a scholarship to Camden Prep. She spent the first two years at the school basically going unnoticed, until she catches the eye of one of the charming Sharks. But after the a kegger goes awry her junior year, she leaves the school.
After 10 months, Harris decides to return to Camden prep, despite knowing she will be the focus of the rumor mill and the brunt of all the bullies – Sharks included.
She’s not the only thing that’s changed during her time away. After the kegger, there was a shadow cast on the Sharks and the school.
Ava Harris: Loyal, bad-ass, SURVIVOR. Ava has basically been dealt the sh*tty-est hand in life but doesn’t let that hold her down from achieving her goals. Smart as a whip, she’s able to use her brains to get her into one of the best prep schools in the area and be the academic leader among her peers. She has a half-brother, Tyler who is her source of motivation and her anchor when she wants to go back to her dark places.
She’s fiercely independent and is doing everything the can to not let her past events dictate her future.
Knox Grayson: The Shark at Camden Prep. While he comes from money, he isn’t short of his own trauma and problems. His mother died when him and his twin brother were only 12 years old and the trauma of that event changed the dynamic of his family. Football is his anchor, but he’s constantly being pulled down by his brothers’ problems.
His broodiness makes him the apple of all the girls’ eyes, but he typically only indulges them for one thing, under the bleachers, from behind.
Sex with her is water to me – tasteless, meaningless, nothing but passing the time.
Let’s Talk About (the) Sex, Baby!
Listen, I read romance novels because they make me feel… a certain way…
So when I tend to get a little uncomfortable when I read YA/NA. However, this book doesn’t contain a ton of sex scenes, but Madden-Mills is a MASTER of turning a simple makeout session into something WAY hotter. And I AM HERE FOR IT.
‘Do you want this fucked-up mouth on you, Tulip?’
‘Yes’, I whisper, heat firing through my body at the frankness of him.
I love all the hidden moments between these two, as well. You’re thrust back into the past a few times throughout the present, and what you learn, is that these two have a history of wanting one another, but can’t give into their desires.
There are some pretty harsh topics in this book. The first chapter ALONE deserves an award of some kind. Ilsa Madden-Mills takes a very ugly subject, doesn’t sugarcoat it or make it any less damaging but delicately introduces you to the scene through her use of texture, sight, and sound. The whole scene is presented in digestible fragments and at the end, you see (and feel) the full picture.
I could NOT put this book down. I started this book around 7:00 pm and stayed up until 1:00 am to finish it! I had to know what happened. TOTAL PAGE TURNER!