Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Game On (The Academy #1)

Game On (The Academy #1)
Monica Seles and James LaRosa
Bloomsbury, 2013
$9.99, Softcover (Simultaneously in hardcover too)

Genre: Sports, Romance
Age: 12+
Description: Maya’s dreams are coming true as she has finally been admitted to The Academy—an international school that is a sports Mecca for young teen athletes. Maya has managed to score an acceptance through a scholarship—the only other way in is with money (and lots of it). She finds herself plucked from her small town and friends to be placed in a world she’s never known before—bitches and backstabbing are all rules of the game at The Academy. There she meets Cleo, her roommate who is an Asian golf pro and a little bit punk; Renee, the beautiful swimmer who everyone thinks is stuck up and bought her way into the school but she is actually very lonely; Nicole, the reigning tennis star that automatically sets her sights on Maya as a rival; Travis, the goodie good son of the Academy owner who is destined for NFL fame; and Jake, Travis’s younger brother who wishes he were nowhere near the Academy. Maya has no idea who to trust as she attempts to hone her skills as a tennis player and she may find that she loses herself along the way.
Opinion: This book is pure 100% fluff but it is at least entertaining fluff. It is a short read and the first in a new series that will appeal to a wide variety of readers—ones who like sports stories, Gossip Girl-y boarding schools, and romance with a good boy and a bad boy. The cover is eye catching and appealing. It is a typical story—scholarship girl gets to go to an elusive academy, there she makes some good friends but is roped under the influence of the evil head girl who thinks everyone should kiss the ground she walks on. It is clear from the beginning that Nicole is going to be one evil girl . . . so it isn’t too shocking when she ends up stabbing Maya in the back at the end. The shocking thing is how deep her infiltration into Maya’s friendship went just to humiliate her. Nicole is one evil girl. I am glad that the book did not end in the cliché of “Maya vs. Nicole” in a tennis match and Maya winning (though this is likely to be how the series ends—with Maya on top and dethroning Nicole). The drama between Travis and Jake is also well played out—she hurts Travis, Jake hurts her, they all are hurt by Nicole, and Travis ends up being just as much of a self-centered jerk as Nicole. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here.

Here’s what some of my teens had to say:

Katie, 14, says, “This cover isn’t my favorite. It’s fine and attractive, but I felt that the cover should have reflected more of the relationships Maya has with everyone rather than the Jake? Travis? on the cover. (See, I don’t even know who it was supposed to be!) The most compelling aspect of the story was finding out Nichole’s plan which left me dumbstruck. I seriously never saw it coming and I should have because she is evil! I blazed through the last pages and read them faster than ever when that happened. Sadly, my ARC was missing pages 199 and 200 so I might have missed a big chunk of something. Other than that at some times it was hard to keep reading—it was choppy. There better be a second one!”

Sarah, 15, says, “Maya has finally been accepted to the Academy, a hardcore sports school where the elite high school athletes go to become the next big names in sports. Maya will be studying and perfecting her tennis skills. However, Maya, as a scholarship student, needs to learn that very different rules that exist in this new culture full of people very different from her. In the end, Maya has to decide for herself what is truly important to her. I really loved the cover! I love how the teens are on a tennis court. I felt it reflected Maya’s new world well. The most compelling aspect was the end of the book where Nicole and Maya have a huge confrontation and Nicole tells Maya she basically set her up and was never considering her a friend. Another compelling part was when Maya and Jake find out that they were just pawns in Nicole’s scheme. Who to trust? Argh!  As I was reading and when I finished I was immediately like, “There better be a second book!” So I was happy to learn that there will be. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking is Nicole really a friend or a really conniving enemy? I was waiting for her to do something the whole book. When she finally did I was still shocked. I knew it was coming but I didn’t predict the extent to which Nicole goes to try and ruin Maya.”  

*Thanks to Linette Kim at Bloomsbury for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*

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