REVIEW: Undecided by Julianna Keyes
Dear Julianna Keyes,
When you sent me a review request for Undecided, I hesitated. The cover suggested “love triangle” to me. (Apparently I’m not the only one.) You kindly reassured me that there is no love triangle and so here we are.
(There are two guys in the story and by the end of it, Nora has had sex with both of them – but there’s no love triangle. I promise.)
In her freshman year of college, Nora Kincaid decided to cut loose. Unfortunately, Nora has only two speeds; on and off. She threw herself so fully into cutting loose, she managed to nearly fail the entire year’s subjects, was arrested and had to perform community service over the summer and, is on academic probation requiring regular meetings with the Dean. Her full scholarship has been cut to partial and her father has agreed to pick up the tab but only if she buckles down and studies and stays out of trouble.
She’s been emailing with “Matthew” about renting a room in his 2br apartment. Apparently Matthew had a similar issue to Nora last year and they are both looking for a studious, no-parties allowed, roommate to keep each other in line and out of the way of temptation.
It turns out however, that “Matthew” is Kellan. (Matthew is his middle name). Kellan is the most popular guy on campus (he wanted to weed out the genuine enquiries, hence the name deception) – a party dude with a prodigious (if metaphorical) black book of conquests (there’s also an actual list on a certain campus bathroom stall which is regularly updated). The year before, Nora was one of the girls added to that list. Kellan doesn’t remember.
Nora can’t decide if being non-memorable is a bug or a feature. She knows it’s a bad idea to actually move in now that she knows she’d be living with Kellan, given their history (even if he doesn’t remember it). But he offers her a big break on the rent and it’s a nice place and she really has to move out of the summer dorm ASAP.
“Kell says you’re moving in.”
I hesitate. I already know it’s true, but hearing it from someone else feels weird. Like it’s more true, more permanent, more wrong, somehow. Like how you know streaking down Main Street is a bad idea, but hearing your parents say “You ran naked down Main Street, Nora!?” makes it sound even worse.
Kellan’s best friend and wingman is Crosbie Lucas. He is also popular but he doesn’t quite reach the heights (depths?) of Kellan’s fame. Both men are on the track team and did well in the national championships the year before but, as usual, Crosbie finished just behind Kellan. Crosbie is a little shorter and more bulky than Kellan. Kellan is GQ gorgeous but Crosbie has more of a wrestler’s build. Kellan is tall, dark and handsome. Crosbie is a handsome (but, objectively, not quite as handsome as Kellan) and a ginger. Nora has a huge crush on Crosbie however. For her, he’s the first choice.
Looming over what eventually becomes their burgeoning relationship (it takes some time to develop – something I liked) is the knowledge that Nora had sex with Crosbie’s best friend. You just know that sooner or later that information is going to come out.
I enjoyed Undecided quite a bit. The title refers not to Nora’s inability to choose between Kellan and Crosbie (there’s never really any question – she’s all Team Crosbie), but about her uncertainty re her degree.
Over the course of the book, Nora develops a solid friendship with Kellan (entirely platonic) and a lovely not-platonic relationship with Crosbie. She also renews her friendship with her partner-in-crime (literally) from the year before, Marcela, who works with her at Beans, the local coffee shop and also attends the same college.
I don’t often read about the wingman getting the girl. In fact, I can’t remember ever reading such a book. Added to that, Crosbie is an amateur magician, so as heroes go, he’s extra unusual. He was a bit of a horndog the year before (nowhere near the level of Kellan’s exploits though) but he found it to be unsatisfying and he’s not interested in that anymore. He is interested in Nora. Given that Nora has to not get into any trouble this year, hanging out with Crosbie might be considered dangerous – he has a reputation after all. It was an interesting conflict which made the book stand out from the crowd even further. In the end, the main issue between them was the closet (literally) hookup with Kellan the year before but again, how this was resolved was something which made the story feel fresh and new (even though I can’t actually remember reading this set up before).
New Adult is about coming of age and there is a clear development for Nora, Crosbie and even Kellan over the course of the novel. Nora settles into her skin and learns to be comfortable with herself. She navigates past mistakes and learns how to avoid future ones. She takes responsibility for her actions and grows up. All of this was well done and interesting to me but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the romance which was the main draw. Crosbie is a lovely guy – a guy one would be happy to take home to meet the family. He has his insecurities and vulnerabilities too, including a lingering concern that Kellan is the better option. (When I was a teenager/young adult, my best friend was on the “knock ’em dead” side of the beauty spectrum. While I was no slouch, I was always the “wing-girl”, so I felt for Crosbie in this regard.).
There is plenty of time spent developing the friendships in the book and showing that Nora’s circle is wider than just her romance with Crosbie. But equally, there is plenty of romance in the book as well. I enjoyed the writing style and the humour in the story and I liked the way you demonstrated intimacy by little things such as in-jokes, as well as by the more obvious means (ie sex). Win.
ETA (21 Feb 2017): On second thought, maybe this should be a B+
This book was so fun. I almost wish I’d gone in thinking it was all about the triangle, though may not have read it, just for the fun surprise of it not being that.
I like how the book played with some of the tropes and adored Crosbie and Nora. A high point was also Kellan’s friendship with Crosbie.
I wouldn’t have considered this book just because of the cover – I don’t do triangles. So I’m glad you reviewed it; it sounds great and … *click*! (Great review too!)
I really liked this book, too! I enjoyed its freshness. I’d never read a book with a wingman hero before, either. Another thing I hadn’t read before was a college student getting lousy grades because of all the partying they did. In quite a few NAs all the characters do is party while maintaining high GPAs. That is not how I remember college. There was partying, sure. But there was also a huge amount of regret when the results came in :)
I’m looking forward to reading this. Happily, it’s waiting for me on the hold shelf at my library. Thanks for the review.
This sounds like such fun – off to buy!
I really enjoyed this book too.I also thought love triangle by the cover but was so happy it wasn’t. I gave it 4.5 stars.
@bev: Yes! What you said :)
@Carolyn: Yes, the cover screams “love triangle” to me but the author assured me that it wasn’t. Having read the book now I can see how the cover fits with the premise – in some ways Nora *is* stuck between Crosbie and Kellan because she had sex with Kellan the year before and that does cause difficulties for Crosbie and Nora but it’s not the first thought I had when I saw the cover. I hope you like it!
@Jo Savage: Definitely. I can so related to the wingman and then he did magic and I was all aswoon! LOL
@Kareni: @Li: I hope you both come back and let us know what you thought!
@Angela: All my friends have enjoyed this one. I feel very comfortable in recommending it.
Great review Kaetrin, technically speaking. I read a review of this book at AAR that before I knew it had given away the whole story right up to the ending. It didn’t seem like there was much left for the reader to discover, so I won’t be buying this book (not right now, anyway). And I’m disappointed because it sounds really good, with the kind of hero I like. I couldn’t vent my irritation over there but I can certainly compliment you!
Please romance reviewers, I value your considered opinions on the merits of a book. If I want an overabundance of plot summary I can always check out the amazon reviews.
Kaetrin – I started reading it last night and stayed up until 1am reading, hoping to finish it tonight. Really enjoying it so far, thanks ever so much for the review because I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise!
@oceanjasper: Really? Ugh. That’s super disappointing.
@Li: This makes my heart happy. It’s the best feeling as a reviewer/blogger; helping another reader discover a book they enjoy!