Hundred Oaks series
By Miranda Kenneally
Available now from Sourcebooks
Read an excerpt
I have thoroughly enjoyed all the books in the Hundred Oaks series that I've read. The books don't share many characters, but what they do share is a setting and a sensibility. Hundred Oaks is a fictional small town in Tennessee. This does allow old characters to show up when needed, but often they aren't since the books more forward in close to real time.
Jordan Woods and Sam Henry from Miranda Kenneally's first book CATCHING JORDAN do make several appearances in JESSE'S GIRL. They're now in their twenties and working, but they are relevant because Maya Henry is Sam's little sister. Maya wants to be a professional musician, even though the band she started just kicked her out. She's in for a major stroke of luck, because her principal's nephew is country music star Jesse Scott.
I liked the way Kenneally wrote the beginning of their relationship. Jesse makes a bad first impression with Maya, but she doesn't take it too much to heart. It's not instant love, but it's not instant hate either. It's a believable progression of two people getting to know each other and trusting each other once their initial confidences aren't betrayed.
I did think that JESSE'S GIRL has a pacing issue. The first part mostly covers one madcap, Ferris Bueller's Day Out-style day where Jesse and Maya break free of their responsibilities and instead pursue the things that make them happy. Then there's some fairly shallow ups and downs covering a decent chunk of time until the dramatic climax and denouement, which is again quick. That slow section in the middle slows what is otherwise a ridiculously charming romance.
I was a little wary of reading a high-school romance between a famous teen and a normal girl, but Kenneally pulls it off wonderfully. Maya and Jesse share a love of music and performance, and only find more common ground from there. Both of them are good at drawing their own boundaries in the relationship, and I believed in the ways Kenneally showed them working through their problems.
JESSE'S GIRL was a fun read, and I think many will enjoy it, both new fans and old. I will have an interview with Kenneally posted sometime in the future; there was an unavoidable delay which is why it is not posting today as promised.