Review: The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

Review: The Hook Up by Kristen CallihanThe Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

Series: #1 Game On
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance
on September 7, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars  

Well that answers that question. Now I know that this gifted author can cross romance genres with the best of them. For the love of Dove Dark Chocolate and Nutter Butters! I seriously thought this young college two-some would be the end of me. The playfulness, the snark, the hang-ups, the wild passion, the friendsies, the gut-wrenching emotions and yep, the game- it was all quite the story and a strong series opener.

The story opens with two college seniors encountering each other for the first time when they dive into the back row of the classroom before they can be marked late. It only takes one look and the sound of the other’s voice to start the process. Unfortunately, this is no easy, light and simple attraction because, though Drew Baylor is smitten by the lush red-headed Anna Jones and wants to pursue this spark they have together by diving in with both feet; Anna hides a severely insecure, self-hating and self-worth doubting little girl under her outer hard shell of standoffish ‘I don’t give a care’ snark. Anna knows who Drew is- every football lover in the south knows who Battle Baylor is as the star quarterback with a Heisman and two National Championship trophies under his belt. Sports gods like Drew do not end up with little nobodies like Anna or so she thinks, but she doesn’t realize what she has done to Drew.

I still don’t even know what it is about her that gets to me. She is pretty, luscious even, with the classic looks of a vintage pin-up girl. Heart-shaped face, a pert little nose, dark red curls that tumble around her shoulders. But she isn’t my usual type. Normally I prefer a girl who doesn’t look at me as though I’m a hair that snuck into her salad. So why can’t I get Jones out of my head? Loc. 4% Drew, The Hook Up

When pushing him away does no good, Anna treats him like a hook up with no strings attached- it will be secret, it will be without kissing, and the list of her self-protection rules goes on. She is determined to remain detached even though she is struggling with all her might to ignore that it isn’t just a hook up anymore than she was right about Drew being just a dumb, arrogant jock. She wants him so badly and wants what she feels growing between them, but her fear is stronger so she pushes him away- hard.

Drew knew from the moment he set eyes on Anna that he was lost to her forever, but Anna isn’t easy. In fact, she is proving to be the hardest thing he ever worked toward in his life. It hurts to be treated like someone’s booty call, but he is determined to break through her walls and win her.

I know the true Anna. I’ve seen glimpses of her. When she’s not thinking up reasons for us not to be together, that girl looks at me as if I’m worth something to her. She’s the Anna that makes my heart beat faster, enjoy each second I’m with her. If she thinks she can hide behind sex, then I’ll let her hide until she realizes I’m safe, that actually being together could be something transcendent.   Loc 19% Drew, The Hook Up

Now when I started out this book, I had serious doubts that I would be finishing it. Harsh, right? But I just wasn’t in the mood for a drama llama and the heroine is very much a drama llama and she had her emotional defensive devices that are touchy buttons with me- from her uncalled for rudeness, reverse snobbery and prejudgment to her ugly use of Drew as a booty call denying that he has tender feelings and lying to herself and everyone else about her own. He laid it all out there- honest feelings, pride and trust, but she gave him nothing except brush offs and treating him like a shameful, dirty secret to her friends which is ironic because that is her motive for keeping him at a distance because she’s afraid he’ll do that to her. You might have had the most god-awful life on the planet, but that isn’t an excuse. I saw nothing worthwhile or nice about her in the beginning (which I suppose is rather the point about her character needing to grow). I sat back and waited to see just what awfulness justified her actions and attitudes before I hit the kill switch on the story.

It is a testament to the author’s writing that she figured out a way to make me keep reading this prickly, hot mess of a girl’s story. It truly helped that Drew was a rock and I fell in love with this flirtatious, sunny, charming guy from the get go- so did Anna, but she was holding out with all she had.

People think pride is something you ought to be able to control, that it’s something sinful, best used in small doses. And they’re right. But for most of my life, pride has been the only thing that’s kept my head up. Now it’s holding me back from Drew. I know this. Hell, I feel its hard hands upon me, clutching with a tightness that speaks of desperation. I know this, and yet I can’t break free. I’m not ready.   Loc. 30% Anna, The Hook Up

Somewhere along the way, instead of wondering just how much longer I was going to put up with this broken girl, I began to wonder what would be the thing to bring her to her senses. Her past was not one that was pretty and the emotional abuse done to her unfortunately is rather common even outside fiction- abandonment by a parent and steady childhood bullying can and will twist and warp a person. I was rooting for her now that she would cast off her fear and just allow in all the love, acceptance and friendship that Drew was holding out freely. Naturally, she made it all so hard and broke both their hearts. This would be why I brought up the chocolate earlier. I needed it to survive this girl’s stubborn-stupid.

Beyond, the angst of Drew and Anna’s tumultuous relationship, the author painted in the background with captivating secondary characters with their own history and stories, college life, Drew’s life as a championship quarterback and the back history for Drew and Anna. The writing was strong and tight. It was a longer book and I will confess to skimming through Anna’s issues because while I was rooting for her hat that point, I didn’t have enough patience and energy to hang with her that closely particularly when she was in the ‘have her cake and eat it too’ phase of getting juvenile about things like a youngish gal in a relationship would even while insisting that Drew is nothing, but a lay. See? Not easy, particularly since I was getting it told alternate first person perspective. It was baby steps with their relationship, but the forward momentum was there. The twist about three-quarters of the way through was an interesting surprise, but it was a good one too. It leveled the playing field in their relationship so that certain dynamics shifted into balance putting them on more equal footing.

In wrapping this up, I will say that it might seem that I didn’t like this story and that it was painful to read. On a certain level, that would be true, but its only one truth. This is not the one to grab up when you want light and easy, but it is so worth it to get through all the brokenness to the healing and love- to see these two save each other. I would have missed out on so much if I had given up and I’m so glad to have read it. In fact, by the end, I was tickled to see the excerpt for the next book in the series and know that it is Drew’s best bud, Gray’s story.

There are many elements typical of the New Adult Contemporary Romance genre that will appeal to those who dig it, but I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about flawed difficult characters and agonizing yet spicy hot romances.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Kristen Callihan

Kristen Callihan is a child of the 80’s, which means she’s worn neon skirts, black-lace gloves, and combat boots (although never all at once) and can quote John Hughes movies with the best of them. A life long daydreamer, she finally realized that the characters in her head needed a proper home and thus hit the keyboard. She believes that falling in love is one of the headiest experiences a person can have, so naturally she writes romance. Her love of superheroes, action movies, and history led her to write historical paranormals. She lives in the Washington D.C. area and, when not writing, looks after two children, one husband, and a dog — the fish can fend for themselves.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m not sure I would have your patience with her 😉 Great review !

    • Thanks, Iza!

      Yeah, this was a rough one. I talked to the book out loud a lot. 😉

  • Whew Sophia. Sounds like she was kind of like my heroine the other day. Different issues and ways but almost pushed me too past the point of return with how much growth she needed. I’m glad things worked out for you in the end. I’d been wondering about this one. I think when I’m in the right mood for handling her I might give it a go 🙂

    • Good call! You really need to be in the mood. I really struggled to read this one at first b/c of how ugly she was acting toward him- and well most everyone else too.

  • I am nervous about these fantasy authors delving into NA. I hope I don’t find it “stereotypical” NA and formulaic… will read this B2B with Cecy Robson, fingers crossed I’ll love it as much as you did.

    • Oh, I wouldn’t say how I felt about this story most of the time was love, Braine. 😉 But I was vested to see how he would finally get through to her. Oh, yes, I have Cecy’s book too. Yum!