FicCentral received a free copy of this book from *the author*.
Publisher: Shay Savage LLC (Self-Published) on August 5, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (NA)
I have to be the best. I am the best. I’m quick. I’m strong. I’m smart. I’m the star keeper of my high school soccer team, and I’ve got major leagues scouting me. As their captain, my teammates will do anything I say – on or off the field. Girls practically beg to be added to my list of conquests. As long as I manage to go pro for the best team in the world, I won’t have to worry about my father’s wrath.
I’m Thomas Malone, and I’ve seen to it that the world revolves around me.
There’s a new girl at school, and it’s just a matter of time before she gives in to my charm. This one’s just a little more stubborn than most – she won’t even tell me her name! She’s smart, too. Maybe too smart. I can’t let her in. I can’t let anybody in. I’m not too worried, but even I have to admit she’s interfering with my focus on the goal.
Dad’s not going to be happy about that.
Did I mention I love Shakespeare? Yeah, I know. I’m a walking contradiction. According to the Bard, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Somehow, I got all three.
Now how is anyone supposed to live up to that?
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Thomas Malone is untouchable, used to getting what he wants, accustomed to being the best at everything. He’s got the respect of his teammates, fear from adults who would get in his way, and the eye of every girl in the school. But home is a whole different story, and so is the only girl who isn’t chasing after him.
Nicole hasn’t been in town long, but she knows who Thomas Malone is. What she doesn’t understand is how he gets away with absolutely everything. He’s rude and disrespectful, he seems to have zero regard for the rules, and when it comes to girls… Well, everyone knows he’s only after one thing. So when his attention turns to her, she’s anything but interested. But when half the school gets the wrong idea and slaps her with a label she did nothing to deserve, it’s Thomas to the rescue, suggesting a charade that will — hopefully — put all the gossip to rest. And leave them spending an awful lot of time together.
I’m sure it’s no secret that I’ve read this story before, back in its first incarnation online. But that was forever ago, and while I remembered the gist of it, I didn’t remember much in the way of details. So in many ways, it was a whole new story to me.
I have to admit that it took me forever to warm up to Thomas. I suppose that was part of the plan, and it’s not like Shay Savage is known for writing fluffy, two-dimensional characters. But I was surprised when at 30% into the story, I still kinda hated him. I even thought about putting the book aside and moving on to something else, and I was beginning to think my enjoyment of the old version had been some sort of fluke — either that, or perhaps the story had been changed so much going to publication that it just wasn’t the right one for me. But if I know one thing about Savage’s characters, it’s that somehow she always makes me fall in love with even the most unlikeable ones, so I gave it a few more pages. And then…
Yes, Thomas was a jerk in the worst way. But since Nicole wasn’t like pretty much every other girl in school, more and more of his true personality began to come out around her. And when he sacrificed his reputation to save hers? Well, somehow that one gesture, the way it was so outside his normally selfish comfort zone counteracted all the things I’d previously found despicable about him. It seemed like once he spent time with someone who treated him like just another person, not reacting to him out of fearful respect or misplaced admiration, his human side came out.
Nicole was just as interesting. She wasn’t just the good girl who caught and tamed the town’s bad boy. Sure, she was studious and respectful and just an all around decent person, but she had a backbone and a temper, and her past wasn’t all squeaky clean either. She seemed to see something in Thomas, a lacking or a need or an untended wound, but she just stood by and observed it, called him out on his less admirable qualities, and was there for him when he needed her. Playing the part of sensitive, understanding friend isn’t at all unheard of in romances, but usually it’s because the character immediately sees the need for saving and altruistically acts on it. Nicole, however, simply was who she was, extending a bit of kindness when it was necessary and otherwise continuing on in her life. In this way, it was much more of a fated love story than a contrived one, and it’s just one of the many reasons this book stands out among the rest.
Offside isn’t for the faint of heart, and while it’s high on romance and emotion, it’s certainly not your typical love story. Thomas is crude and nearly impossible to like for a very long time in the story, even after he and Nicole strike up their rather unusual friendship, and while for a moment or two I wanted to dismiss much of the terrible behavior as over the top, it took me about two more seconds to realize that’s exactly how awful some high school students are. And Nicole, while certainly likeable, doesn’t elicit excessive sympathy and come across as that perfectly loveable heroine from page one. There’s much more to her than that, and it just shows how even the most wounded can rebuild and carry on. The characters and their story are much more complex and layered than you’d usually find, though not so much as to make me dismiss it as entirely unrealistic fiction. And just when it seems like everything’s coming together, it’s all threatened by unexpected tragedy. But even that is unusual in that Savage doesn’t just toss it in as an obstacle to create the typical romance novel drama. It’s there to become part of the story, something to both overcome and grow into, and it gives the tale an entirely new dimension that one doesn’t usually find in the romance section.
If you’re tired of the same old story and plot twists, prepare yourself to hate and then fall head over heels for Thomas and then pick this one up. It’s so much more than just another high school romance.