After a cyber bullying incident turns her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl that everyone deserves a second chance.
The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That’s all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl’s suicide. Now Nikki’s been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can’t look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates – almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it’s like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance… and everyone deserves to be loved.
Thank you Brittany from Book Rambles for sending me this review copy!
This book came as a surprise for me because the main character is a bully. It’s a bit different from being bullied, which is pretty common in YA. The thing that makes this story different though, is not only the main character’s remorse of the incident but also the lessons she learned from it. It’s her story of rising up from the mistakes of the past and letting go of the bumps in her life before looking forward. It’s a story that really inspires the reader to keep on going… even after you take a fall.
“‘I’m a firm believer in new beginnings. Looking back all the time… It really starts to hurt your neck.’ He shrugs carelessly. ‘If you don’t want to be defined by your past, you shouldn’t have to be.’”
From the beginning, you can tell that Nikki’s life is pretty much ruined. Her parents are quite distant and disappointed of her, her best friends have deserted her, and she’s pretty much a social pariah at her old public school. She used to be one of those popular girls. The one who had a defined clique since elementary school. The cheerleader, the outgoing one who girls either wanted to be or detested. That all changed with a cyberbullying incident, which is explained near the beginning of the book.
In the beginning, I was really annoyed at Nikki’s self-pitying attitude and the way she moped around. Although I didn’t blame her, considering what happened. Basically she threw a party and her so-called “friends” posted pictures of a girl on her social media, despite her reluctance, for the name of friendship and pressure. Later on, the girl tried to commit suicide. Since it was only found on her social media, she was judged guilty while her friends got let off easily. And she’s been suffering ever since.
“I guess that girl doesn’t exist anymore, and I miss her so badly. I want her life back, the life she had before I shattered it.”
Despite the moping around though, I really connected to Nikki. I know what it’s like to cause damage because of one stupid move, and the aimless feeling you have afterwards when you think that nothing can fix it. I really like how Cozzo explored Nikki’s feelings, and you can really tell that she was beyond sorry for what happened and hoped to fix things, as well as let other people get their dues (being her “friends”). .
This empathy also extends to Pax, who is a paraplegic that also had a completely different life before an accident changed it. He used to be a golden boy – you know the one. The really cute guy who pretty much does every sport you can think of and can be found goofing off at a party. Sometimes comes off as a jerk, but otherwise popular (especially with the ladies). The accident left him paralyzed under the waist, which means he’s stuck in a wheelchair. However, the new adjustments have brought in a lot of perspective for him as he begins to accept his future. He also extends these perspectives and gives advice to Nikki.
I really enjoyed their relationship, as each other’s supporters and as a friendship and romance. Pax is one of the few people to extend kindness towards Nikki, and offers comfort and support in a time where pretty much everyone she knows is against her. He really opens her eyes and allows her to see the different options she has beyond her tainted past. And sometimes you just need that kind of person to really help you discover what you can do to change your future to one that you’ll like, you know?
Their romance was really sweet and a little aching, as Nikki adjusts to Pax’s condition. He’s painfully blunt about sensitive subjects, and at first didn’t think that Nikki could handle having a boyfriend that can’t dance or walk or stand. But Nikki’s much more compassionate than that, and her caring attitude also extends to where Pax’s disability is involved. I loved getting to see these two people who used to be popular and flighty find themselves once again after a momentous time of their life – this time with a more mature perspective of the world.
I don’t think I can stress how much I enjoyed how down-to-earth the author wrote and how realistic everything felt. From lost friendships to turning away from fights that aren’t worth it to showing forgiveness, even if none is given, Cozzo deals with all of our protagonist’s decisions and actions with such sharp accuracy that I can’t help but reflect on it in my own life. I’m not sure if it was written to be as such, but this came out to be quite an introspective book for myself. It really made me explore my own (somewhat) flighty relationships and how they can change as we mature and grow older.
“‘Some relationships are easily broken. One mistake, one wrong move, destroys them beyond repair, regardless of regrets and apologies. Some relationships just don’t mean that much to begin with, even if you think they do.’”
Nikki battles so many things in this book, from attaining a friend that knows the effects of bullying to dealing with parents that have also been dealt a blow from her cyberbullying incident, and the author portrays them so well, and with so much heart. The utterly charming Pax was a welcome addition and their light-hearted banter helped shape the story up, providing a nice balance to the sour taste of Nikki’s once-friends. Contemporary lovers should not miss this one, as it provides not only great character development, but also lessons that will definitely touch your heart. Which is why I would recommend this slightly shorter book to pretty much any other reader who wants to read a down-to-earth contemporary that shows characters that make mistakes and only learn from them. After all, what is there to do but pick yourself up and keep going?