Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: paperback, my own copy
Status: book 2 of the Hundred Oaks series

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

Recently I binged all the available Hundred Oaks books on audio. The final book in the series, Coming Up for Air, releases this year, and I wanted to relive this series that I've loved for five years. It's always interesting to reread books I read long ago because my tastes have changed over the past few years, and I've found myself liking books I loved a little less and books I didn't like as much, I've enjoyed more the second time around. Stealing Parker is a little bit of both, and I also wanted to talk about it in more depth than I have before because while I enjoyed it more this time, part of the plot of Parker has truly become a red flagged big fat NO NO for me.

I really really love Parker as a character. She's strong, smart, and talented, but she's not infallible. She makes mistakes, a few of them. But I love her because she TRIES. She's a good daughter and friend, she works hard, she's kind to others after being outcast from her friend group.

I also adore Will, who is as swoony of a love interest as you could ever ask for. I love the scenes featuring Will and Parker getting to know one another again and becoming close, and the one featuring the two of them with Bo are especially precious.

I'd say one of my bigger complaints about Stealing Parker is how few of these scenes there are, though. I would have liked more of this adorableness, please and thank you, especially as Parker and Will's relationship is often overshadowed by Parker's relationship with Brian aka Coach Hoffman, the 23 year old baseball coach, and it's this teacher/student relationship that is the big NOPE. As a teen or an early 20s college kid, I wasn't so vehement against a relationship like this because it didn't seem as big a deal to me. But now that I work with teens and I'm a little older, I want to reach through the page and smack this GROWN ASS MAN who allows himself to give in to a relationship with a teenage girl. Yeah, Parker does encourage it and take the lead with certain things. However, I'm not going to sit here and blame the teenager. It is absolutely the responsibility of the ADULT in this situation to shut it down, but not only does Coach Hoffman not, he pushes Parker further than she feels comfortable with on many occasions, and that REALLY infuriates me.

I get that Parker's relationships with Will and with Brian are supposed to be foils, as are the two guys' characters. But it still makes me super uncomfortable to read, especially some of the detail included in the scenes with Parker and Brian.

I think other readers might be uncomfortable with the amount of religious discussion in Parker, but I welcome it in this story. I think Miranda handles the topic respectfully and believably. Never once does it feel like Miranda is writing with a moral in mind; rather, any religious beliefs or judgments, for good or bad, are written expressly through the point of view of one of the characters. I think Miranda does a good job of showcasing how many religious church-attending "good, upstanding" Christians often behave in a distinctly un-Christian-like manner, and she does so without demeaning Christianity as a whole as the book also features many characters who faithfully uphold their beliefs. As a native Tennessean, I can tell you that this aspect of Stealing Parker is 100% accurate. While religion remains one aspect of life that YA lit as a whole continues to ignore (for the most part, although things seem to be starting to trend differently), it's just not realistic for a book set in the primarily Christian (let's be real: mostly Baptist with a little Methodist or Presbyterian thrown in) South to avoid the topic entirely. Sundays and Wednesday nights in the South are almost entirely reserved for church so I very much appreciate Miranda including this plot.

I adore the Hundred Oaks series. Miranda's stories are thoughtfully created, and they're chock full of humor, romance, spunk, and life. And did I mention the book boyfriends? There are MANY to swoon after! Stealing Parker may not be my favorite, but I love how it makes me think as I read, and I love that it also feels like home. I definitely recommend you give this fun series a try. Be sure to check out my reviews of Things I Can't Forget (book 3), Racing Savannah (book 4), and the audiobooks for books 1-5

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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.

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  1. I read this a couple years ago and REALLY liked it. One of my favorite elements was the religious element actually, because of how well it was handled. I like seeing different viewpoints represented. And I agree, Parker is such a great character! Brian really is so creepy and I was super uncomfortable with that whole thing. I'm glad it didn't go as far as I was worried about.

  2. Thanks for the awesome review! I had no real idea about this book before. The topic is definitely pertinent to today's headlines unfortunately and I totally agree that an adult has no business with a teen. I think the religious part will be refreshing to read.

  3. I think rereading a book you’ve read and loved long time ago is a scary experience. What if I don’t like it this time around? My reading tastes changed a lot. I haven’t started this series yet, though your reviews push me to do it sooner.

    For some reason I’m rather tolerant to teacher-student romance in fiction. I guess I just read it as not real story. But I get your feelings. I totally agree that in this kind of relationship the adult is the one with more power and the adult is responsible.