New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Hook Up (Game On #1): by Kristen Callihan

Publish Date: January 16th, 2015

Number of Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing

Genre(s): New Adult Romance, New Adult, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘Why won’t you let me kiss you, Anna?’

I can’t breathe.

‘Why, Anna?’

‘It’s too much,’ I rasp.

‘Not when I want everything.’ He says it so deep and strong, a staking of a claim. ‘And I want everything with you, Anna.’”

— Kristen Callihan, “The Hook Up”

For fans of new adult, sports, opposites attract, or just college-age romance stories, The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan is a definite choice to add to your “To-Read” stack ASAP. It was actually pretty well written, the romance was equally sweet and steamy, there was never any unnecessary drama, and both the main characters were incredibly likeable, fleshed out, and both go through so much growth within the chapters of this book.

I honestly didn’t have too high of expectations going in; I thought it was just going to be another college/sports romance, like the ones I’ve read before, but it was just going to be one that wasn’t as trashy as some of the titles available out there. The premise, to me, sounded like my assumptions would be right and this wasn’t going to be anything special. It also didn’t help that there was the whole cliché “Insta-Love” moment right off the bat when the two characters’ eyes met for the first time. Hard as it was, I tried not to roll my eyes too much and kept reading on. That’s where I slowly became full of shock and surprise in the best way possible.

For a new adult romance novel, this story had a surprising amount of depth to it once the author really lets you in on her character’s’ thoughts, especially the inner conflicts of both her main characters, Anna Jones and Drew Baylor. Both have traumatic pasts that they both want to be able to move on from, but of course it’s what’s holding them back from their goals, and it was so enticing to see how they both realized that dealing with their issues would help out their relationship. Added bonus to the fact that their issues were both so extremely relatable too compared to other NA romances: Anna used to be picked on for being the fat girl growing up back home, so when the big man on campus, star quarterback “Battle Baylor” is hitting on her and seeking her out, why wouldn’t she believe that it’s some sort of prank or that she couldn’t handle being in the spotlight with everyone’s eyes on them? Drew’s background is a sad one: his parents both died and it’s been just him for quite some time. Everyone recognizes him and loves him as the football star and leader on the field, but he wants to be known as more than just that. He wants to have actual friends and not fans, to be seen as more than just a dumb jock to some, and wants to know he can make it without people’s pity or letting things slide just because he’s won the Heisman trophy for their campus. Like I said, the characters felt so incredibly real as you learn more about them: their faults, their dreams, their fears, and it was amazing how they both overcome their inner turmoils all while their relationship develops based on where they’re both at mentally. It all tied together so well, and I was impressed by this story development

Of course, there was also plenty of sex. A new adult romance is expected to, and believe me, I’m not exactly complaining either. I was a little surprised at how quickly the first hook up happened in the story, especially with how the story was set up, and it does have the potential to make you think this story is going to be trashy and there’s not much else that’s going to happen. Don’t think that way! I’m telling you, it gets better, even in the love scenes that fill up the book. None of them seem excessive or over the top, they are all very well written, there’s plenty of balance between the sweet and pure fluff compared to the steamier and smutty moments too. What starts off as just casual sex slowly evolves into more passionate and meaningful as the romance develops and both characters really begin to fall for each other.

I also really enjoyed the fun banter between Drew and Anna too; the author really shows that their relationship works outside of the bedroom too as they bond and continue to get closer to each other. Anna is a hard shell to crack, what with her past and her insecurities, but she has those moments where she lets Drew in, and shows what great chemistry the two of them truly had. The dialogue was a little off at some points; there were times where I scoffed and said “A college student doesn’t talk like that,” but there wasn’t anything that raised too many redflags, so it’s an easy thing to overlook.

And I think how you see yourself makes you who you are. Your soul doesn’t have a title or an occupation. It’s just you. The rest of the world can go fuck themselves.”

— Kristen Callihan, “The Hook Up”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love!

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy, right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule…

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It’s a good thing Drew knows all about winning.

All’s fair in love and football…Game on

What I Liked:

  1. Both Main Characters Inner Conflicts! This was the most surprising out of the whole novel, and it added so much depth to the story. Gone was the sexy, shallow, and smutty college romance, and right before my eyes, the characters felt so much more genuine, more fleshed out, more relatable, and so much more memorable.
  2. New Book Boyfriend: Drew Baylor! He definitely gets the MVP award for me, he was an amazing character who I liked even when his first line was when he sputtered out “Hey Big Red.” I liked that he was the one fighting and scratching for more than just hot, casual sex in his relationship with Anna. He fell hard for her, probably also way before her feelings were mutual, and it was sweet to see how devoted he became. Also, I’m glad he wasn’t just another man-whore that has become a cliché in this genre; he’s charismatic and has a past with that reputation, but he’s learned from it and has moved on since, but it’s still something that came between them when he wanted more and she was so hesitant.
  3. The Romantic Chemistry! Kristen Callihan gave Anna and Drew some amazing chemistry, even outside of the bedroom, library, Drew’s car, etc. With both of them dealing with their own issues, it was great to see the scenes where they bond and ultimately help each other overcome both their fears and setbacks in order to be together in the end. Their banter was hilarious and sexy, and the tension rose to scorching levels that show how well they worked together.
  4. Gray Gets Better! Gray is Drew’s teammate and oldest best friend. They’ve been through a lot together, but honestly he wasn’t doing it for me through most of the beginning. He’s blond, he’s hot, he can get with any chick and he knows it, and he’s not a fan of his best friend falling for some random chick. Luckily, as he appears more often and we see a different side of him with both Drew and Anna, he really starts to grow on you and you see yourself also hoping he gets everything he wants out of life.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Insta-Love/Lust…It’s a cliché in fiction, both regular and romance, that a lot of readers are just tired of. I admit that I too am one of those people, and part of me was already willing to pass on this story when it happens right away in the story. It’s just not realistic, and Anna’s body’s reaction to when her and Drew’s eyes land on each other for the first time seemed over the top, even if I’m a male myself. You can look at someone and instantly think they’re hot, and maybe you really want to have sex with them right off the bat, but let’s get real… our bodies don’t feel like they’re about to combust with lightning shooting out of our eyes, etc. Not that that’s word for word what happened, but you get my point.
  2. Some of the Dialogue Seemed Off…It’s minor, but there were just a few lines or instances where I couldn’t help but scoff at some of the dialogue written and think “That is not how a college student talks.” Sure, Anna and Drew are both practically AP-level students who are both incredibly intelligent, but even smart people don’t just say certain phrases or words just for the sake of them sounding smart.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It was a scorching romance with two amazing main characters that were easy to root for and get behind, but what made me really love it was the way the author handled both character’s inner conflicts and how they both had their own coming of age moments that were needed in order for them to end up together and be happy. It made it feel like this story wasn’t just about the romance, it was about personal inner growth too.

I definitely compare this book to the Off-Campus or Briar U series written by Elle Kennedy; both are sports/college-age new adult romance titles, and they both have swoon-worthy leading males that are more than just the playboy womanizers that’s slightly only a part of their reputations. They also share sassy, snarky, intelligent female leads who put the athletes on notice and keep them on their toes.

This is a part of a series, and Drew’s best friend Gray gets the spotlight next time around, so with how much I enjoyed my first ever Kristen Callihan novel, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to be checking it out. I’m not exactly in a big hurry to get my hands on a copy since I have over 80 books stacked up in my bedroom that I still need to finally read, but a review of the sequel in the Game On series is inevitable.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

1 thought on “My Review: The Hook Up (Game On #1): by Kristen Callihan”

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