I am back with another series review, these take some time since I need to read and evaluate multiple books to pull this together. This installment is once again a young adult series, but this time a contemporary romance series: Thunder Road by Katie McGarry. This is a backlist series that initially was going to be a quartet but it has stopped with book three. All have been published, beginning in 2016 and the third title published in 2018. Chances are you have this series in your library or your local public library might have it.
By Katie McGarry
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Emily has always believe her biological father had abandoned her and her mother when she was just a baby. After coming home she is shocked to see her father (adoptive) telling her that the three of them will be traveling back to her mother's hometown and state to attend the funeral of her paternal grandmother, Olivia. When they arrive, not only does Emily see Eli her biological father, but she learns that Olivia is also still alive. By coming back though, Emily not only meets Olivia and a host of others in Eli's life, she is thrust into a complicated situation that started before she was even born.
Oz does not understand why Eli's prodigal daughter coming back is such a big deal but when Eli tasks him with keeping her safe, he will not let down Eli and their motorcycle club--Reign of Terror. All he knows if he completes this task, then Eli and the MC will have no choice but to let him become a member of the club that is more like his extended family. What he does not bargain for is falling for the daughter...the would be princess of the MC.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I was immediately drawn into the story through McGarry's writing and even with it being just shy of 500 pages (496 to be exact), I flew through reading it over the course of an afternoon/evening. I liked Emily did not cave and grew in strength as the novel progressed. Oz also does some growing because he is forced to challenge is belief that he is being trained to follow Eli without questioning him, in order to join the Reign of Terror. I think that that is highly relatable to my students/teens, even if they have never heard of a motorcycle club or want to be apart of that world.
I would not hesitate to recommend this title to my students. I find even though this was published during 2016, it does not feel out of date because the author does not make specific references to tv shows, movies, or even brands of cellphones. They use cellphones, video calls, etc but because she does not attach it to a specific, teens will be able to relate to the concept without having to reference a specific brand. I would let readers who want clean reads know this is not going to work for them if they want to avoid books with drinking, some violence (gun shot some physical fighting), and physical relationship that this book does contain all of those elements. I look forward to continuing on with the series.
By Katie McGarry
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The next installment in this series has us meeting Breanna, learning she is the smartest student at her high school, and wants to get out of Snowflake to go to a private school that would be better for her academically. She also wants to go because the middle child of nine kids, she feels like she is the odd one out at home too. Breanna quickly because enamored with Razor, one of the Reign of Terror members we met in book one. Razor is the quiet one, the one that is struggling with his emotions and his belief--in himself, his dad, and the Club--and is often misunderstood at school, but when a teacher sticks up for him to be admitted into the AP Physics class, it throws Breanna and Razor together even more. Throughout all of this, another classmate is blackmailing Breanna with a photo that has been taken to make it look like Breanna and Razor were in a compromising position, using a social media website as the potential platform to blackmail her. Razor has to figure out a way to protect Breanna and find himself in the process, at risk of everything he holds dear.
I really liked McGarry using the social media website as the means for blackmail because I feel like students/teens can relate to how it is used against someone instead of just socializing. I wish there was more discussion about the referenced digital footprint, but that is just the school librarian coming out in me as I want students to realize how serious it is [end of soapbox]. I did not quite like this one as much as the first one, but I still liked it. I like that this had the school setting and tough choices had to be made on when to trust adults--both of which I think are true to typical teen life too.
As with the last one, I would not hesitate to recommend this title either. As with the other, students who want clean reads will want to steer clear of this one as it includes drinking, talks about suicide, and sex. Again, nothing that seemed force, out of place, or gratuitous, it is just for if you are coming to this post for reader's advisory you are aware of these situations.
By Kate McGarry
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Readers of this series would pick up on that Chevy and Violet would be one of the pairs in this series and that they would end up together with each other despite their status in books one and two. Long Way Home is finally their story of how they manage to rise above their differences and figure out how they can proceed forward in life together--without giving up on their families.
Of course being book three, I cannot really give specifics to the plot because it would spoil what has happened it the books that proceeded. Suffice it to say, it is easy to get hooked right into Violet and Chevy's story. What struck me more so with this book than any others, is the overlapping of the stories. Book one all of it takes place during the summer, other than the last chapter. Razor and Breanna's story overlaps with Violet and Chevy's and I realized it during book three because a character would make reference to something that had already happened--Razor's hurt arm for instance. It did not take away, just surprised me. Overall, the book reads very quickly as we move through the situations that pull the story forward.
My disclaimer about the content should not come as a surprise to anyone as it is the same with the others: these books contain some alcohol, conversations about sex, and violence. This book is has more blatant violence than the others towards the beginning. Please keep that in mind based on your own reading preferences. As I have previously mentioned above, this will not prevent me from recommending the title to students I know who can handle or do not mind books with these situations.
Final Series Thoughts:
After finishing up book three, I can tell that there are threads left undone and there are missing pieces we have yet to discover--who in the Reign of Terror betrayed the Club and Violet? How does the Riot Motorcycle Club get taken down (officially)? This series was originally going to be a quartet, but Harlequin Teen made the decision to stop it after book three. Who is the final pair that the fourth book was supposed to be about--the original quartet of Olivia's grandchildren have all been matched up so who is left for the last book? According to McGarry's website there are short stories that may answer some of these questions (and more from her other series Pushing the Limits).
As far as these books standing the test of time, these did not feel "dated" yet as I have been reading them these last couple weeks. There is nothing that gives readers the impression of the year that these characters are living in--there is references to TV, cellphones, cars/motorcycles, but McGarry never once uses something that would date the book to be around during the height of particular product or show. After my daughter finishes up with the series, I do plan on donating them to my school library as I feel that some of my students will appreciate it. I will gladly add these to my romance fiction section (I have a genreified fiction collection) because I know there are students at my school that will like these books because they are good combination of romance, strong and well developed characters, and substance to help steer readers through the books. The frank conversations about small town life, being judged for who your parents (which can translate to siblings), and wanting to do more with your life are all themes that would resonate with my students.
Book Extras to note other than the short stories, is the Spotify playlists McGarry creates for all of her books. Once back at school, I will add a QR scan code inside the front cover of these books directly linking students to each of the playlists.
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