Erotica, New Adult Romance

My Review: Pretty Reckless (All Saints High #1): by L.J. Shen

Publish Date: August 21st, 2019

Number of Pages: 360 Pages

Publisher: Self Published

Genre(s): New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

This title was constantly being tossed around as a popular recent release amongst the growing New Adult Romance genre that I’ve really come to love, so of course it was only a matter of time until I decided to give it a try. The blurb/synopsis has it revealed that it’s another addition to the “enemies-to-lovers” story trope, and after finishing this book, I can say it is a great example of just that.

Throughout reading, I found myself rolling my eyes a couple times at how gritty and overly sexualized the author made her cast of characters: the popular girls who are all frenemies who can’t help but say cutting remarks between pasted on smiles, the boys are all edgy and sexy while doing drugs, bragging about their badassery and sexual appetites while getting into fights while also having some random chick still wrapped around them, even how sophomores are hanging out with seniors and have an air of mystery with how good of a fighter they are… I don’t know, maybe it’s because I grew up in a midwestern suburb and didn’t party at all in high school, but this setting was a bit ridiculous for me to say the least. I will say it got better when the story finally started to narrow in on Daria and Penn, the two main characters, once the sparks began to fly between them. While the setup was over the top, I can say the author excelled at the romance and the rising sexual tension.

While the lust and romance was the major highlight of the book, even that was a bit over-the-top and eroticized–not sure if that’s actually a word, but whatever–with Daria and Penn fighting their animosity for each other with their growing feelings. There were some pretty erotic moments that occurred, and yes… fully aware I was dull in high school, but I’m pretty sure no one who’s 16-18 has done a few things that happens in this book, but I also can’t deny that it’s all still pretty hot book smut to read if you’re into that sort of thing.

I was pretty drawn into the story as the tension rose and the plot thickened, and I’m not even talking about the stupid & petty high school BS. There’s actually quite a lot going on, like domestic abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and just violence in general. There are some major triggers in Pretty Reckless for certain readers that they should be aware of before they decide to read this book. The author does also weave into the storyline of self acceptance and awareness that the two love interests help teach each other… you know, when they’re not getting hot and heavy after seducing each other to the point of eruption. Another issue may be the implied cheating that occurs with multiple characters who may or may not be in relationships already… the line is pretty blurry on that, but I can’t detract that there’s a vast amount of casual sex happening/implied throughout.

One thing that I’m still a little…. meh about is that while this is the start of a series, there are a lot of instances that imply inside reference to previous events with other books. This is the first book I’ve read by L.J. Shen, but this All Saints High series is a continuation/spin off/etc. of her other series, Sinners of Saint. While I do believe you can read and enjoy this book without having read any of her previous work, I did find myself wondering about when a past instance or person was mentioned or referenced. This was especially true with Daria’s parents, Jaime and Mel, and their neighbor, Dean. Actually, it turns out all the kids in this series are the kids of the main characters of the previous books. If I care enough as I keep reading on, maybe I’ll make it a point to go back and see how deep this all really goes.

Despite what can be contrived as mostly negative feedback on the book, I did really become encapsulated by it, and read it deep into the night instead of getting a good night’s sleep because I did feel the need to see what would happen next. Like I said, the romance was scorching even though it was a bit overdone for high school students, I liked the scorching chemistry between Daria and Penn, and the lessons they both taught each other throughout in order to give their relationship really deep meaning and more than just a sexy fling.

What It’s About:

This story stars Daria Followhill and Penn Scully, two teenagers who come from completely opposite backgrounds and live two totally different lives, but both ruin Penn’s twin sister’s life without fully realizing it. Daria and Penn’s sister, Via, don’t get along at Daria’s mother’s ballet studio, and jealousy gets the best of Daria when she finds out that her mother helped Via get accepted into an elite school for dance, so she takes the acceptance letter and runs outside, and that is when her and Penn meet for the first time.

They believed a new friendship was formed with the possibility of more over the torn pages of a letter, but Penn had no idea what he’d done and because of his actions, Via ends up running away and disappearing, to which Penn puts all the blame on Daria. The new friendship quickly descends into pure hatred and they become sworn enemies.

Four years later, life makes another unexpected twist, and Penn ends up living with Daria and her family to make up for how they didn’t help with his sister’s disappearance, and tensions are high with them wanting to make each other’s lives a living hell…

What I liked:

  1. Everyone Is An Asshole! I know, this is a weird one to put under what I liked, but I did think it made the story that much more interesting to have all the characters be so morally grey and not entirely likeable. Some characters did have some more redeemable qualities than others as the story developed.
  2. Daria’s Struggle! Her inner conflict really resonated with me on a personal level, because I’ve definitely been where she’s been. Maybe not fully to the degree of what she faces with her friends and mother, but I do get her feelings of being unwanted, unloved and irrelevant in other people’s lives, therefore making one absolutely unlovable in general, either with family or a romantic relationship. She wants the love and attention that any normal human being wants, but pushes away when it’s shown because of the past hurt and pain she’s felt, and she wants to protect herself from feeling that amount of pain again. Even more so when the person has hurt her so many times throughout, but they don’t see where the issue even stems from, nor do they try to learn in order to understand Daria better. Like I said, I really understood where she was coming from, and hopefully I have someone like Penn to help me move past it like he did for Daria.
  3. The Romance! It was scorching and filled with plenty of juicy angst; I will give the author some major kudos on writing some steamy moments in the story. I still say quite a bit of it was pretty over-the-top for two kids in high school, but it was still enjoyable at least.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Pop Culture References…This was something that was pointed out in my writing too, so now I really take notice to it, but there was a lot of current pop culture references made in this book. While for right now they all work well, the author weaved them into the story with much hilarity, what about in five years from now? Will they still be relevant, or will this just make the story feel very dated as time moves on?
  2. The Extra-ness…The story does have overly sexualized, stereotypical characters as a backdrop which initially made wanting to keep reading something I absolutely didn’t want to do. The exaggerated focus on fighting, violence, sex, and drugs was just a bit overly dramatic and unrealistic, and didn’t convince me as much as the All for the Game books have done, but at least the romance made it all worth it.

Conclusion:

A sexy enemies-to-lovers New Adult Romance that started off with an unrealistic base, but developed into an incredibly binge-worthy read! The romance was absolutely electric: from the initial seductive teasing and arguing, to the love scenes and then to the eventual admissions of their true feelings for each other.

I’d definitely recommend this title for those who are fans of the genre who like the morally grey main characters, or for those that have possibly read books by Penelope Douglas. Pretty Reckless heavily reminded me of Punk 57, which I enjoyed as well!

I think I will read on, as the next book in this series will feature Knight, who was one of my more favorable characters of the bunch, we’ll see what happens next!

Trigger Warnings: assault, sexual assault, cheating on significant other, bullying, violence, domestic abuse

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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