They say roses are the most beautiful…
Gin Fielding is counting the days until she escapes the small-town life of Roper, Missouri for college at NYU. She prefers to blend in, though she’s far from invisible. But when she protects a younger student from a bully, the spotlight turns on her in ways she never imagined.
I say that every rose has its thorn…
The Friday night lights shine bright on Chase Matthews. Roper’s golden boy, Chase can do no wrong, enjoying the small-town celebrity being the star quarterback brings. When Gin defends his little sister against a bully, he decides to lend her his star power and change her senior year in ways she never imagined.
But maybe the thorns are part of their beauty.
When Gin declines Chase’s invitation to be part of the elite Sweet Sixteen, the repercussions turn both their lives upside down. But amidst the chaos, Gin and Chase find solace in one another. Together, they confront the ugly truth– that sometimes glory has a dark side.
***Warning–Sweet Sixteen is an upper YA book with mature themes and is intended for readers 18+.
***Actual rating: 4/5 Repentant Stars***
And I’m starting to realize the problems at our school didn’t come so much from individuals, but from a culture that worshiped football and thought that consent was a black-and-white, yes-or-no issue.
Before persuading you to read Sweet Sixteen, all I can say about this book is that it’s seriously a brilliant piece of writing. The story aims to let the readers know how wrong some of the seemingly typical behaviors in high schools are and how important it is to respect others. I can go on and on about all the reasons I love this book but I’ll try to make them as short as possible. Here we go!
For starters, it all begins with Sweet Sixteen, a tradition which the captain of Roper High School football team will hand out a rose to a girl “specially selected by the teammates” in the morning of their weekly game day and she’s going to be gangbanged
in public in the party if Roper wins. So basically, Sweet Sixteen is the one-way ticket for girls to skyrocket their popularity…or at least that’s what the footballers think. Thus, when Ginger “Gin” defends the star captain of the football team, Chase’s, little sister from the bullies, she’s expected to be the next rose receiver as a thank-you gift from Chase. Guess what? Our gothic, badass Gin refuses to accept the rose and what’s more, she pretty much turns Chase down in front of the entire school.
Mom smiles. “You know why you belong here, Gin? It’s because you’re not like everyone else. You were the first girl who was brave enough to say no to that rose.”
I smile back. “I think my exact words were ‘you can shove that rose up your ass.’”
“That’s my girl. And now other girls know that they can say no too. And those arrogant little pricks on the football team know not every girl wants to play their game. You weren’t made to be invisible, Gin. Look at the way you stood up for Cassie Matthews when she was being picked on. You were made to change the world. And Roper is where you’re starting.”
When I first read the part about Sweet Sixteen, I had no idea it was such a sick and perverted tradition in the high school culture. Although I’ve never seen anything like that in our (mostly conservative) schools here, I’ve heard similar activities in high schools around the world, particularly in the western countries. It never fails to shock me whenever I learn someone doesn’t know how to respect a girl’s body or, for God’s sake, anyone’s body. High school boys actually treat sex as an emotional outlet and they really think all the girls enjoy everything during the process, which is so wrong in many levels.
That’s why I’m totally impressed by Gin’s courage of standing up for those in need and for voicing out what she has in mind about the whole Sweet Sixteen tradition. She isn’t afraid of NOT compromising with Chase and simply following the crowd. She’s brave enough to speak up and puts integrity before anything else.
I’ll never be like Chase. I may not be an experienced sex goddess, but when I do have sex, it’ll mean something. People treat sex like entertainment, and I don’t get it. It’s the most intimate thing you can do with another person.
To my astonishment, for someone as high-maintenance as Gin, I’m surprised to find that she’s had a huge crush on Chase since forever. Despite the fact that he’s the one giving the rose every week (and is probably deeply involved in the Sweet Sixteen), Gin somehow sees through his disguise as a tough guy. There are many intricate layers of secrets in Chase’s life and before he knows it, Gin has already dug into them step by step.
I’m uptight; he’s outgoing. I have two friends, and he has two hundred. I’m an artist, and he’s an athlete. I hate Roper High School and everything it stands for, and he’s pretty much the poster boy for it.
With the love blossoms between Chase and Gin, he gradually learns to put himself in others’ shoes and sees those he used to take granted for from Gin’s perspective. I really, really love how much Chase’s changed and matured because of Gin’s positive influence and I’m more than happy to witness the character development I’m hoping for in stories like this. Besides, Gin also shows the unneglectable power of an introvert throughout the book, making me proud of her for no particular reason.
When I start up the truck and put it in drive, I know there’s no way I’m going to that party. I’ve done more than enough damage already.
I can’t even text Gin tonight. If I tell her I see now what she’s been saying all along about the Sweet Sixteen, her ‘I told you so’s’ might make me actually throw up.
Aside from the obvious sex-ed, this book addresses other common problems in not only the high schools but also the society nowadays, including discrimination against races, genders, ethnic groups, colors of people, and other serious issues like drug and alcohol abuse. I admit I haven’t read anything combining all of these important yet usually ignored problems in one story and I’m very satisfied with the overall plot. Nothing feels rushed or unfinished and each character finds their way of dealing with their personal demons. Hence, generally speaking, Sweet Sixteen really brings out its A game in the Coming-of-Age category.
All in all, I have a fabulous time reading Sweet Sixteen because the details of the story are really well-thought-out and the characters are equally lovable. The only reason I don’t give this book a solid 5-star is because once Chase changes his thought about Sweet Sixteen thanks to Gin’s reminder, his relationship with Gin seems a bit predictable and so is the ending of the story. I don’t know what to expect at the end of the book but it’s just not it. Anyway, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Sweet Sixteen to everyone in that it tackles several social problems and educates us how to take them seriously.
***Thanks to InkslingerPR and the author for kindly offering me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.***