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REVIEW: Taking Chances by Molly McAdams

Dear Ms. McAdams:

After this book, I wondered if the new thing in New Adult is love triangles and super selfish heroines. Is this the new *thing*? Is it a result of Twilight’s fake love triangle? Does it feed a wish fulfillment of being the center of all the attention? It could just be Vampire Diary fan fiction.  In the book Harper says

I felt like Elena from Vampire Diaries. She has two insanely hot men who are in love with her and would do anything for her. One of which, she would give almost everything to be with, and the other she continues to push away, even though she can’t ever actually stay away, so she won’t have to admit she was in love with him too.

I’m not certain and I’m probably not the right audience for this book. However, my grade is not completely dependent on the ineptly executed love triangle but the non stop eye rolling what the f__ck reactions of everyone that circles the orbit that is Harper.

Taking Chances Molly McAdamsEighteen year old Harper goes to college across the country away from her controlling and distant Marine father. It’s her first taste of real freedom. At college, Harper quickly makes friends with her new roommate, Breanna and is taken to a party where Breanna’s brother lives with several other guys. Harper quickly gets a nickname “Princess.” This is a companion to the nickname she was dubbed by the recruits in her father’s regiment – Blaze – describing her habit of frequent blushing.

Harper is a hot commodity. Breanna’s brother Chase shows immediate interest as does his roommate Brandon primarily because she is catnip to the boys: “Seriously hot”, “snarky and sweet”, and to top it off, she’s a virgin. She doesn’t realize how hot she is, of course, and is monumentally surprised that one of her father’s Marine recruits actually has a crush on her. It’s like One Direction wrote that song JUST FOR HER.

Harper is turned off of Chase (only not really) because he is seen with several girls hanging off his arms. Yet, despite her protestations that she wants nothing to do with him, she sleeps platonically with him that first evening so Chase can guard her virtue from the other dogs in the manger.

Harper chooses Brandon over Chase and you make a valiant effort into creating another hot, dangerous boy in Brandon but it doesn’t work. He’s too long suffering and too sweet and too generous to be a bad boy and his tats and underground fighting don’t alleviate that. So while we are supposed to believe that Harper really loves Brandon, her constant fantasizing about Chase diminishes any impact that Brandon might have on the reader. Even the positive goodreads reviews, of which there are many, focus a great deal on Chase.

The love triangle creates a lot of drama for Harper, Chase and Brandon. Brandon isn’t perfect in Harper’s eyes because sometimes he is willing to go fight right in the middle of their make out sessions. How outrageous is that, right?  In Harper’s eyes it is a huge sin because she should be first and foremost in Brandon’s mind. As in Thoughtless, Harper has nightmares she is having sex with Chase and Brandon walks in.  As in Beautiful Disaster, there is a scene where Harper is at a fight with Brandon and is placed in jeopardy by another jerk.

It’s fairly important to remember that Harper is 18 and that the three of these kids are college students yet Chase has a trust fund, Brandon earns enough money fighting to buy a gym and pay lavish salaries, and Harper – working in the base commissary – has saved enough money to buy bags and bags and bags of clothing and an Expedition. There is no coming of age for Harper. She learns nothing when she goes to college and I’m not even convinced at the end of the book she actually plans to get a degree. Her life path was the result of stupid decision after stupid decision, or more accurately, stupid inaction after stupid inaction. It’s hard to sympathize or even root for Harper. Why did I finish the book? Because the WTFery was off the chain.

This is a contemporary but there is no attempt at any realism in any aspect of the story. Not in the age of the characters. Not in the setting (college is almost non existent). Not in the actions of the characters.  I guess Harper being super selfish and self absorbed could be realistic but I like to think that people like her are few and far between.  No amount of “I love them both” refrains rouses any sympathy in me for her situation.

The rest of the review is in spoilers because if I even obliquely hint at the events herein no one would believe me.

[spoiler]Harper and Brandon date for the entire semester. He is totally in love with her. Chase flirts with her and she’s intensely attracted but she stays physically true to Brandon. Harper sleeps with Brandon regularly and they fool around quite a bit, but she doesn’t give Brandon her virginity. It has never felt right for her.  She goes home with Brandon for Christmas and gets close with his family.

I helped her cook, we went to get our nails done together and had a night of romance comedies after we’d sent the boys away. I could easily see myself in his family, and though that thought after only four months into our relationship scared me, it kind of exhilarated me too. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk about marriage, but eventually, I think I’d like to head down that road with him.

But she promises to ring in the New Year with Breanna and flies back to San Diego the day of.  Chase gives her a ring on New Year’s as a belated Christmas present.  On New Year’s, she and Chase share a torrid kiss. Before Brandon returns, Harper has allowed Chase to ink her. Has accepted an expensive, custom made ring from him, exchange “I love yous” and then proceeds to give him her virginity.  She thinks

 I now understood why I’d never been ready with Brandon, I was always meant to do this with Chase.

Of course she did.  But then when Brandon returns, she doesn’t tell him the truth.  She’s incapable of making a decision:

“Chase, what should I do?” I began to search his face for answers, but he looked so pained I had to stare at my hands instead.

“I can’t answer that for you Princess. No one can.” After a few minutes of intense silence he continued hesitantly, “Who do you want?”

“I don’t know!” I blurted out quickly, “I want you Chase, but I can’t hurt him. I won’t hurt him anymore than I have. I love him too much.”

So of course this means that she leaves Chase to return to Brandon even though he declares that he will “love you for the rest of your life.”    I have to admit Brandon’s pretty dumb. After all, he accepts that the gift of a ring from Chase is nothing, as Harper says.  Unfortunately for Harper, because she is so stupid, she gets pregnant because she refused to allow Chase to use a condom. She didn’t want him to and now she’s going to pay for it, right?  Nope. Breanna guesses and tells her parents who are THRILLED for Chase and Harper. Harper, however, cannot bring herself to tell Chase. She does tell Brandon because, well, she’ll be showing soon enough but takes the longest time to reveal this to Chase.  In fact, she doesn’t tell him. He essentially finds out himself but when he does, he is THRILLED.

I know right? If there was ever a time that a headdesk gif should be used, it should be RIGHT NOW but I will simply content myself with using all caps.

Harper is swept up into the bosom of the family.  Everything is great except Chase and Harper get into a huge argument over suggestive cell phone texts.  Chase runs off and dies in a car crash. Harper is devastated but no worries, kids, Brandon is there to soothe her battered soul and in less than two months after Chase’s death, Brandon is back as her boyfriend.  Chase’s family understands because it is a special situation. Chase’s mom even tells Harper that Harper shouldn’t “miss her chance” with Brandon not two months after Chase’s death.  And Brandon’s mom is just fine welcoming Harper back into the fold even though Harper cheated on Brandon and is having someone else’s baby.

There could not be more understanding parental units in the world.

The story wraps up with pregnancy scenes, make up scenes between Harper and her father, and then more pregnancy because Brandon and Harper finally have sex and she gets pregnant. Again.  She might be 19 by then, but I am not entirely sure.[/spoiler]

Originally I was going to give this book a D but after typing it all out, I felt that it put the F in WTF.  F

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

26 Comments

  1. Luce
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 12:00:41

    Wow. Just wow. I read everything under the spoiler cut with a face similar to O_o? Because that is some Grade-A WTFry. It’s so past trainwreck that I can’t even come up with a word for it. Yikes.

  2. Sirius
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 12:18:28

    I am so absolutely sick of love triangles by now, I can’t tell you how much, but this one seems indeed to be so badly executed and all that spoilers gallore just made me want to do a headdesk, many times. Thanks for the review, this one really is not for me.

  3. Maggie
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 13:20:24

    Thanks so much for the detailed review. This one is definitely not my cup of tea.

  4. Sandra
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 13:30:26

    I was looking at the reviews on B&N. Lots of fan-girl love. But the negatives pan it for the usual self-pub reasons – lack of even basic editing and spell checking, for one. Is this seriously 1000 pages long? Seriously? Maybe the author needed that many pages to cram all the WFT-ery in.

  5. Jane
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 13:32:36

    @Sandra: There are proofing and grammatical issues but in this book I felt like it was all part of the bundle of what the fuck. The sales on the book have been really strong so … not sure what audience this is appealing to.

  6. Deb
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 15:13:13

    I’m glad this market is expanding- I write New Adult- not glad to see an entry that sounds awful.

  7. SonomaLass
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 15:26:58

    @Sandra: No, the books is just under 500 pages. I still think that’s a lot of WTFery to get through, so kudos, Jane.

    I’m all about the understanding family, and I realize this is fiction and not necessarily gritty reality, but please. That fantasy world where the girl gets to eat her cake and have it too, and everyone understands and no one blames anyone (least of all her) for consequences emotional and physical? No thanks.

  8. cleo
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 15:36:34

    OMG. I read the spoilers completely slack jawed. Wow.

    Your review kind of reminds me of Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane, an m/m with an equally self absorbed young MC, unpleasant love triangle, lots of WTFry, and a plot twist ending that pissed me off.

    I’m sure that somewhere there is a new adult book with a well done love triangle, but I haven’t encountered it yet.

  9. Juliana Stone
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 15:41:55

    I’ve been reading a lot of ‘new adult’ books lately, several of them because of mentions here. I like this niche genre a lot, totally bridges the gap between YA and adult contemporary. BUT I worry about the message AND the response to books like this one, or Beautiful Disaster. The hero in that book would be my worst nightmare (as a parent) I’d not only kick his ass, but my daughters as well if she ever brought home a douche bag like that. I haven’t read this particular book so I can’t comment, but what I can say is that books like Tamarra Webber’s EASY are wonderful, Return to Normal by Trish Dollar another great read.

  10. Kelly
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 19:23:33

    I snorted Diet Coke out my nose at the One Direction reference.

  11. jmc
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 19:36:39

    The set up and trainwreck nature make me wonder…did this begin as fan fiction?

  12. Kaetrin
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 20:21:16

    Wait? What? Spoiler-related question-

    **

    She has TWO babies in the course of the book?

    **

    Is the sex she has, eventually, with Brandon second best too?

    I don’t think I would have picked this book up, as I’m not a fan of love triangles generally but thx for taking one for the team Jane! :)

  13. connie333
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 07:38:34

    I don’t suppose she ever got whatever qualification that she was working for? You know the whole point of going to college.
    Harper and Bella Swan should have WWF style fight to establish who is the biggest mary-sue.

    Spoiler:
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    @Kaetrin that was my first thought too – everytime Brandon and Harper get it on she’s wishing it were Chase…. Ugh.

  14. Karenna Colcroft
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 10:18:54

    I wrote a book like this once…

    I was 17 and as soon as I finished it, I realized the plot and the characters were pretty much ridiculous. I haven’t read many New Adult books, but I have hopes they aren’t all love triangles and secret babies… I hate to say it, but this sounds like someone took some old school romance tropes, aged them down, and called it good.

  15. Kay
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 11:31:48

    @Kaetrin: ditto your second-best sex question.

    I love a good triangle, but this sounds less steamy and more steaming.

  16. P. Kirby
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 11:25:49

    @Jane:

    The Jerry Springer, “Who’s my baby daddy?” demographic by the sounds of it.

    Sadly, I do recall this level of utter relationship stupidity back when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Not me; my love life was rather dull, but cohorts who wrapped themselves in all manner of self-involved drama.

    The reactions of the parents–all-forgiving, however, is ridiculous. I mean, I know parents, who twenty years later, when the grandbabies are headed for college themselves, still hold grudges against their ex-daughter/son-in-laws. Of course, said in-laws may still be asshats at forty, but the point is, few parents are that forgiving.

    No offense to young parents out there, but I just can’t see how two babies at nineteen, without an education and hooked up with a guy you essentially married out of convenience, is an HEA. Ugh. These two will be in divorce court in under five years.

    Pass.

  17. Amanda
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 13:32:04

    This sounds jaw-droppingly awful. And now I see from Publisher’s Lunch that Harper has bought it!

  18. Daily Deals: A variety of deals from a historical retelling of Achilles and Patroclus to an insane WTF new adult
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 14:02:16

    […] a crazy, unbelievable story about a passive girl who can’t make any decisions in her life. I gave it an F, but at 99c you can see for yourself how insane the story is. This is a contemporary but there is […]

  19. Emily
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 08:16:17

    I just started reading this book without reading the review. At the point where she sleeps with Chase I was like WTF!!! Also, I would consider neither Brandon nor Chase as heros because they both did nothing positive in the course of the 52% of the book that I have read, no matter how hot or whatever they were. They were both useless. For Harper, she is not the type of heroine I like to read: selfish, everyone loves me, I can’t decide, do me, I didn’t know I was hot, I’m ok with having babiez when I’m 10 years old!! I was cringing for so much of this book already. So I decided to come here and see if you guys had reviewed it and if it’s worth it for me to finish.

    Sounds like it is not! I began reading this hoping it would be a real coming of age story. Nope.

    I have recently read several New Adult/Mature YA books and I don’t think I’ve been as frustrated as I have been reading this one. I am going to have give this a DNF and pretend I never bought it (and I VERY rarely DNF a book I even got through Beautiful Disaster though it bugged the crap out of me).

    Thank you for saving me the time of having to finish it. Just one chapter after the “love triangle” explosion and I come to question the worth of the book? Definitely not for me.

  20. Kaity
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 10:53:22

    Finally! Someone who sees how juvenile Molly McAdam’s books are! I read Stealing Harper, not knowing it was the sequel to Taking Chances (sequel in this case actually meaning a rewrite from Chase’s POV). It was awful. All of the characters just love Harper instantly in this childish forever, do anything – sacrifice everything, based on nothing way. Then Chase is a complete and total jerk the entire novel, yet Harper wants him over Brandon and the reader is supposed to root for Chase? I think not. I don’t know how these were published and I don’t understand the fan drooling, but I’m happy there are still real, educated readers with sense out there.

  21. Jane
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 11:31:52

    @Kaity – I’ve always wondered how Stealing Harper went over, particularly given what happens to Chase in Taking Chances.

  22. Kaity
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:39:49

    @Jane: Well, I’d never heard of Molly McAdams until coming across Stealing Harper and giving it a try based solely upon the synopsis. It’s a shame because she has good base story lines, however they are not executed well. After looking at more of her work, I see they all feature a “hot”, short girl, with “killer legs”, and a size 2 body. The guys are always bad boys who change instantaneously upon meeting the heroine because she’s just so beautiful and different. I just find the unoriginality annoying. I’m also not a fan of the way she breaks the fourth wall.

  23. Gina
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 22:59:43

    Thanks for the review. I read book two without realizing that this book existed. Halfway through I found myself say “WTF!” and “yeah right, not even in the movies”. Then the way it ends for Chase! Wow, terrible. I knew I couldn’t read the other book knowing it was from Harper’s point of view. I felt she was a flawed character. After reading the spoiler I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.

  24. Lynn M
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 00:19:54

    I tried to read this, but I had to give up after a mere chapter because Molly McAdams insisted on using commas instead of periods. Seriously. Constantly we’d have two complete sentences – sometimes with different subjects even – joined with a comma. Did this woman pass the first grade? I was so irritated by this – and the fact that the editors let it go, for shame – I simply couldn’t keep reading. Now after reading this review, I think she did me a favor because this is absolutely laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

  25. Dinah
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 02:23:34

    …I am so angry that stuff like this get’s published and people who are doing it right, being as true to self, and to reality, are suffering. I completely do not understand the appeal to this, yes, I’m totally a girl who get’s attached to Guy Characters and who get’s butterflies when a guy I like makes eye contact from across the room, but your description of this book reveals it has some twilight-esque ridiculousness…

    I wish I could Avada Kedavra this book forever…

  26. Hora Nicholas
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 05:59:22

    I really did love the book, I thought it was emotionally topsy turby and at times tear tugging. I will admit that parts were poorly executed, and a lot of it was completely unrealistic but nevertheless, the story kept my eyes glued to the pages and my heart fluttering like I myself was someone in the background watching the story if Harper’s life. Although this book wasn’t the best and surely had a lot of editing and proofreading to be done, I still fell for the story and allowed myself to become completely consumed with it for the short amount of time I’d read it. This story may not have been executed the way it could have been, I am not ashamed to admit that I was unable to stop reading, and as far as I can tell, that in itself is proof of a good story.

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