Pepper’s never considered revealing her deeper feelings for her longtime friend, Jace Wilder. After all, he’s got the personal magnetism and good looks to hook just about any girl in town -- and he has. Their friendship stands apart from high school social circles, and they’re both just fine with that (or at least they pretend to be).
That is, until running star Ryan Harding moves to town.
When it comes to running, Pepper’s goals are clear. But when it comes to Jace and Ryan, it’s nowhere near as simple.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is the first in a series and I have a feeling that each book will continue to get better. Pepped Up, is about Pepper Jones, a cross country runner, and junior in high school. She is naïve, and innocent by her own choosing, having focused her energy towards her sport rather then boys or parties. Her efforts have paid off as she is the top ranked in her state going into her junior year in high school. Pepper was raised by her very eccentric weed-smoking grandma, “Buns” as she is often called. Buns acted as a surrogate grandma to Jace, who was raised by a single dad that lived down the street. Pepper and Jace were raised together and developed a close friendship, but are light years apart in the circles they run in and in life experience. Jace is the “it” guy in school, he is the end all be all of high school heart throbs, think Jake Ryan a la Sixteen Candles, and Pepper is of course the lovely Samantha Baker, naïve, inexperienced, and crushing hard on the one guy that she cant have. These two live in two different worlds. Jace parties hard, and Pepper doesn’t. They have different friends, and their lives really only intersect outside of school.
When, Ryan, the new guy and top ranked male cross-country runner moves to town and attends their school, his presence is a threat that shakes things up. As Pepper begins a relationship with Ryan, Jace falls off the deep end and gets himself involved in some shady business. The further out of his grasp Pepper gets, the more lost Jace becomes. He is reckless, and spiraling out of control. Pepper is the only person that can balance out Jace, she brings him peace, and is his rock.
I loved Pepper. She was an admitted good girl, who made smart decisions. She was a levelheaded teenager who stayed away from all of the gossip and drama of high school. Because of this she was a bit green. She gets a quick lesson in how the popular crowd lets lose and must deal with some very uncomfortable situations with her lack of knowledge, all while preparing for Nationals.
Jace should have been unlikeable, but I couldn’t hold any of his piss poor decisions against him. He was charming and handsome, he was the guy that all the girls wanted to bed and all the guys wanted to hang out with. He gets himself caught up in some bad stuff, makes some irresponsible decisions and gets lost along the way. He is brooding, hotheaded, and secretive…my favorite kind of bad boy.
Pepper struggles with her feelings for Jace. She thinks that he is out of her league, and that he sees her as a sister. Jace is harboring feelings for Pepper that he buries deep down. These two struggle with how to deal with one another, how to manage their feelings, and if they should act on them. This is really about first loves while trying to navigate their way into adulthood and survive the social barriers of high school.
Pepped Up is a coming of age story. You see these two characters begin to grow up, Pepper gets her first taste of the dark side and experiences love and lust for the first time, and Jace is forced to consider the consequences of his actions and make better decisions. It was believable and reminded me of when I was in high school because I knew Pepper’s and I knew Jace’s, and nothing that was presented in the book was off par for what goes down in a high school. It was a great representation of how people influence others; of how images can sway your actions, and of how sports and focus can lead you down a fulfilling path.
For a debut author, Ali Dean has proven that she has some literary chops. Her book was well written, worded, and structured. It was easy to read and had wonderfully developed characters caught in situations that were realistic to their ages and settings. I look forward to see what the author does with this series.
As noted before, this is the first in a series. Ali Dean, the author is currently expecting twins in the next few months, and consequently has not set a solid time frame to publish the next book. She hopes to release it in the Spring