Blog Tour: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Confession time: I read Catching Jordan because it was set in Middle Tennessee, just 30 or so minutes from my college town. I had no idea I would fall in love with Miranda Kenneally and her wonderful characters. Sourcebooks Fire contacted me to be part of their two-month-long blog tour for Racing Savannah, and of course the answer was a resounding YES! So keep reading for my review and an interview with Miranda in which she shares which character forced his/her way into more page time, which author she looks up to, and why friendship is important. There may also be a small peek into the fifth and sixth books in the Hundred Oaks series! Enjoy!


Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: fourth book in the Hundred Oaks companion series (book 4 of 6)


Summary:
They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…

Interview:
What drew you to writing companion novels instead of a direct series or "regular" standalones?

It sort of just happened. I had already written Catching Jordan, and when I started writing Stealing Parker, characters from Catching Jordan just showed up. I had planned to write stories set in various Tennessee Towns, but I'm glad everything revolves around Hundred Oaks High.


I am too! It's nice to have familiar faces. Speaking of things your books revolve around... Many young adult novels feature clumsy and nonathletic characters. Why did you feel inspired to use athletics as a theme in your novels? Is there a particular sport you haven't written about yet that you'd like to?

I wanted to write about strong girls who are part of a team. I haven't written about soccer or swimming yet, and honestly, those are about the only two sports left that I know anything about. If I don't know much about the sport (which was the case with horse racing), it makes the book a gazillion times harder to write. 



In addition to those difficult and temperamental horses, Racing Savannah features younger siblings of characters from the first three novels. Why the time jump?

I really wanted to learn more about Rory Whitfield, Vanessa Green, and Jeremiah Brown (you'll see him in my next book.) Plus, the previous group of kids had graduated high school and were heading off to college.



So is there a scene in Racing Savannah that is your favorite or that you were most excited to write?

I had a really fun time writing the dance scene where Savannah gets her picture taken and falls into the inflatable drumset! It's so ridiculous. 



That was a great scene! You have a talent for creating swoony relationships, but you also include strong friendships like Savannah's with Rory and Vanessa or Parker and Drew in Stealing Parker. How important is it to showcase both and do you keep the balance between them?

A lot of teenagers think having a boyfriend or girlfriend is what's most important. I felt like that as a teen, for sure, and sometimes I wasn't a good friend if there was a boy in the picture. What I didn't understand then is that a boyfriend should fit into your life, not *become* your life. I want to show teens that friendships are just as important/if not more important than relationships. 



Is there a character you loved so much that you had to include them more?

Sam Henry! He was never supposed to be the love interest. He just kept showing up and wouldn't go away. Silly boy. 


I'm so glad he did! Sam is one of my favorites! As for your protagonists, Jordan, Parker, Kate, and Savannah have all overcome obstacles and insecruities, which proves how strong they are. Are there any fictional characters who inspired you to create your heroines?

Sarah Dessen's books taught me how to do character development. I love giving characters a flaw at the beginning of the book and knowing where I want them to be at the end. Finding out what makes them change is the best part. 



Do you have any hints what will come next in Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5, formerly titled Feels Like Fate) or the sixth Hundred Oaks novel?
Breathe, Annie, Breathe is about a girl training to run a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died. It comes out in July 2014. As for Hundred Oaks 6, I'm not sure yet! I'm thinking Hot Lifeguards, but I'm just don't know. Do you have any ideas? ;-)

I am so down with hot lifeguards, it isn't even funny. Thank you so much, Miranda, for taking the time to answer my questions!

Review:
Like I said, I started reading the Hundred Oaks series because of the Tennessee connection, but what hooked me was that Miranda's books feature tough cookie girls, swoony boys, and wacky adventures. Plus, I really love the sports factor. I'm a book lover, sure, but I've been an athlete all my life so I appreciate characters with athletic ability just as much as I appreciate characters who are quieter and bookish. Racing Savannah is the fourth installment, and surprisingly, it jumps about four years into the future from Things I Can't Forget. All the old favorites make appearances or at least receive an honorable mention, which should ease fans' minds about who's up to what, but it's really nice getting to know the new generation of Hundred Oaks kids, including newbies Savannah and Jack as well as Will's little brother Rory, Ty's little sister Vanessa, both of whom can be glimpsed in previous books.

Racing Savannah can be called a novel about star-crossed upstairs-downstairs love, almost a contemporary Downton Abbey, but there is so much more to it. Savannah is one of the spunkiest protagonists I've seen in a while. Girlfriend has some spirit, and she knows when to make a stand. It's very refreshing that Savannah goes for what she wants, first the job as a trainer, then jockeying, and finally, Jack, and I really respect her gumption. Savannah's openness to change (well, some change) and her thoughtfulness also make her a wonderful character, but she's not perfect. I was constantly disappointed by Savannah's reactions to Cindy. On one hand, Savannah loves and cares for Cindy, but in a total Snape-like move, she tries to hide that, and she kind of treats Cindy like crap in person. But that's good. It gave Savannah some room for growth.

Meanwhile Jack is such an attractive boy (ooh, I occasionally had to fan myself when he was in a scene), but he's not as open as Savannah in many aspects. Jack is really responsible and fairly mature for a teenage boy, but he's so full of fear. Jack cares so much about his father's business opinions that he allows that control and deference to merge with his personal life. Jack does not trust himself initially so I feel like he actually has an even greater personal epiphany than Savannah.

So these characters are both pretty wonderful yet flawed in their own ways, which made for an exciting relationship. Honestly, I never worried about the romances in Miranda's previous books. There's always a sense of hope, that things are never past a point of repair, but Jack and Savannah really pushed the limits. They are both so incredibly stubborn, and that had me wondering if this would be a book without a 100% Happily Ever After. That factor added so much realism, and I really like that added depth to this story.

Racing Savannah and the entire Hundred Oaks series remind me of home with their Tennessee setting, but they also remind me of the fierce and all-encompassing drama, both good and bad, of being a teen. Really, that's all I want out of a young adult novel, and this series has enough of that feeling to share. I honestly can't wait for Breathe, Annie, Breathe AND to meet Miranda when she comes to Texas for TLA 2014! Booyah!

Book Links:
 photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg  photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg  photo B1426D4C-9EEC-4C0B-A1FB-90524B03C0CA-1855-000001A1E82B3B3E_zps17d98f4d.jpg

About the Author:
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Author Links:
   

8 comments:

  1. Yay for a Sarah Dessen influence! I didn't know for sure if these books were companion novels until now, but now that I know that, I want to read this book even more. :) The fact that Kenneally features athletic characters is nice--most of the people I know are involved in some sport or another (or used to be). So, the sports focus is really realistic to me.

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    1. Yup! They're all set at the same high school, and each book shows previous characters, even if it's only for a scene or a passing mention.

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  2. I'm so behind on everything and naturally this series is one of them. I always find it interesting to see what the author like most about each novel. Excellent interview!

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    1. You can tell when an author really has fun writing a scene. There's something about that real life joy that translates into the words of that scene. Thanks!

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  3. I seriously need to get to these books! I miss Mid TN!

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    1. Me too! I get a little homesick each time I read one.

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  4. Ha! I thought I was being quite creative when I made the Downtown Abbey comparison but I've seen it in a couple of reviews that I've read. We can all just share that little moment. I love your interview, it's so natural and organic, and so vivid. Though...I think Miranda just skimped on the Breath Annie Breath questions but I understand ;)

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    1. I didn't make the connection until I wrote my review, when Sybil and Branson just popped in my head and wouldn't go away. I was like, "YES. That's exactly what it's like!" Thank you so much! I thought for a while about my questions. Basically, I just asked her what I wanted to know. I agree about Breathe Annie Breathe, but I knew when I submitted that she wouldn't spill too many details. :D

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