REVIEW: The Chase by Elle Kennedy
Dear Elle Kennedy:
I read the original Off-Campus quartet back in 2015 and 2016; I gave the first book a B and the last three each got a B+. So when Janine told me there was a new series set at the same fictional university, Briar, featuring the school’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of hot hockey players, I was definitely interested. Even more so when I found out that this, the first book, is available on Amazon for free.
Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is sort of Elle Woods come to life, if Elle Woods were a bit more contemporary and a lot more sexed. Summer is rich, blonde, obsessed with fashion and has a reputation as a “party girl.” She was kicked out of Brown for an at-first unspecified incident involving a fire and her sorority house, and she’s landed at Briar University mid-way through her junior year, a move that required the intervention of her attorney father with the school’s dean to affect (to Summer’s embarrassment).
As the story starts, Summer has just found out that she won’t be allowed to live at Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu sorority house, on account of that little fire thing. She is left without housing, until she talks to her older brother, Dean (star of one of the earlier Off-Campus books).
Hours later, Colin Fitzgerald finds himself at a New Year’s Eve party at a bar in New York with Summer. He’s met her once or twice before, and there’s an attraction between them, in spite of the fact that neither is the other’s type. Colin is tattooed and though he’s a hockey player (of course) he sees himself as a video-game nerd. He has a lot of judgments about Summer, but when she comes on to him at the bar, he’s very tempted. Nevertheless, he (partly defensively) slags her off as “fluff” to a friend, and, unbeknownst to him, Summer overhears. Colin’s then confused and surprised to see Summer making out at midnight with his teammate (and roommate) Hunter.
Dean has arranged to have Summer move into the house shared by Colin, Hunter, and their roommate Hollis. Summer and Colin both have reservations about living with the other, and thus avoid each other early on. Summer can’t forget Colin’s comments on New Year’s Eve, words that played on some of Summer’s insecurities. (He makes things worse but expressing surprise that Summer reads the complex fantasy series that he’s into.) Colin is afraid of his attraction to Summer, and convinced that no good can come of their hooking up.
For most of the book, the two have a push-pull; Colin finds out that Summer heard his cruel words, and feels really bad: one step forward. Colin gets mad when Summer gets into a bar fight (she was totally provoked!) and he feels like he has to rescue her: one step back. The two find out that they can help each other on projects that each is working on (a paper for her; a video game for him): another step forward. And so forth.
I really, really, REALLY liked Summer. She was an awesome heroine. Sure, she’s rich and beautiful, but her ADHD has made her feel like the dumb one in a family of overachievers. (I liked Summer’s family a lot too; unlike many rich kids in New Adult novels, Summer doesn’t come from cold and critical parents. Her parents were very supportive and loving, and it was nice to see; it reminded me of how rare that is in this genre.) Though Summer suffers from a lot of insecurity, she is generally a happy, bubbly, outgoing person, who speaks her mind and doesn’t let others’ opinions get her too down (except when it comes to Colin, apparently). Even with him, Summer recognizes that she shouldn’t be giving energy to someone who seems so ambivalent about her. Unfortunately, the “heart wants what it wants” (with an assist from the loins), and Summer keeps mooning after Colin even when she knows she shouldn’t.
I really liked Summer’s self-awareness and emotional intelligence; she is pursued by their roommate Hunter, and she’s tempted to go out with him, even if he doesn’t make her feel like Colin does. But she worries that she’s doing the same thing to Hunter that she feels that Colin is doing to her…leading her on. I appreciated a heroine who is capable of being (at least mildly) attracted to more than one man, and I thought her concerns showed a lot of maturity.
Unfortunately, all that is wonderful in Summer felt wasted to me on Colin. I just couldn’t like him that much, at least for most of the book. I may have been influenced by the degree to which I identified with Summer and felt protective of her, but it was also that I just didn’t know what Colin’s deal was. He comes from a much less happy background than Summer – he’s the only child of parents who argued bitterly throughout his childhood and still compete, even though they are divorced, to be Colin’s favorite parent. I can imagine that can mess you up, but as a conflict it felt one-note and was never teased out into something that made me understood just what Colin was afraid of.
It didn’t help that so much of Colin’s focus was on his physical attraction to Summer. I could have done with fewer descriptions from either character about how the other affected their genitals, actually; I know this is New Adult and they’re young and horny, blah blah blah, but so much focus on physical attraction makes the longevity of the romance feel questionable, particularly on Colin’s part, since he seems to have little interest in Summer otherwise. (It’s hard to tell if he’s put off by her extroverted personality or just *thinks* that he won’t be able to handle it long-term; either way, again, it didn’t make me feel like this was viable relationship, for most of the book).
Both characters have “b” storylines – Summer’s involves a very sleazy professor who is putting the moves on her, while Colin is interviewing for a big job after graduation at a video game company. I found both of those stories interesting, and they mirrored each other in a way, with Summer and Colin standing up for themselves against powerful people.
The story did get more enjoyable towards the end; I was expecting Colin to make one last asshat move, and he surprised me by not being quite so predictable. (He does take the opportunity to pick Summer up and carry her over his shoulder for the *third* time in the story, which I thought was three times too many. I think it’s supposed to be cute, but given how condescending he is towards Summer at times, calling her a “brat” and actually picking her up like a child didn’t thrill me.)
The secondary storylines in The Chase and Summer’s character (did I mention she was awesome?) made up for the deficiencies I found in the hero, to a large degree, and my grade is a B+. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book in the series, which I believe involves Summer’s friend Brenna.