Sunday, March 1, 2015

All Played Out by Cora Carmack

Title: All Played Out
Author: Cora Carmack
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 320
Genres: Romance, Realistic Fiction, New Adult
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

Since I first saw this cover (eep!), I've been calculating just who I have to kill to get a copy of it before May 12. Fortunately, no deaths were necessary. When I attended Apollycon, I was graced with an Advanced Reader Copy after a raffle. Cue the screaming and crying.

I know I say this every time, but nonetheless... Cora Carmack strikes again. I'll admit that I am not a football fan, yet somehow each installation of the Rusk University novels leaves me wanting to scream "Bleed Rusk Red!" off the rooftops. I know it's a fictional school, but damn, do I want to go to Rusk.

I think that one of the greatest things about the Rusk novels is that no couple is the same. Carson and Dallas, Silas and Dylan, Mateo and Nell: they're all different people with different dynamics. I love that. Each book is a new adventure, a new story. Not only was All Played Out's story new, but it really struck a cord with me.

The basic premise is that Nell is a die-hard student. She's the first in her family to attend college and she's studying biomedical engineering (talk about intense). She's spent the first three years of her college career pushing herself to succeed. On track to graduate early, she suddenly realizes that succeeding may not be everything it's cracked up to be. College isn't just a place for education; it's a place for experience. And Nell has had 0 experiences. Insert Mateo Torres. Mateo is the joker of the football team, the carefree partier. The most common description is "flashy and shameless." After he learns of Nell's "College Bucket List," he vows to help her get through all of her firsts. However, Mateo isn't the shallow flirt that he seems to be. It turns out that he's got an ex haunting him, and Nell just might be the cure to help him move on. Cue classic college experiences, off-the-charts chemistry, and a little exploration.

As someone who will be going to college next year, someone who is hoping to get a BA in three years, someone who has always put studying above all else, I identified with Nell. I identified with her internal struggle, her constant questioning of her capabilities when it came to relationships. Is she even capable of love? Is she just too analytical? Is she destined to be married to her work? That resonated with me.

At first, I didn't really like Nell. She was just too stereotypical. Too "nerdy." It felt like Ms. Carmack was trying too hard to make her the typical girl genius. But as the book went on, she grew on me. She loosened up and she became more real, which I think was the whole point. She didn't start living until Mateo broke her out of her shell. And even though Nell didn't seem quite real at the beginning, the relationship always felt real. Despite their differences, Nell and Mateo just fit. Brookes even says, "I literally have no clue how you and Nell work. None" (ARC 229). I don't quite know either. But they just do. Nell is the brains and the rational; Mateo is the heart and the fun. Together, they blend and Nell becomes a little bit of the heart and Mateo becomes a little bit of the brains, and they balance. It just works.

So I reiterate: Cora Carmack strikes again. All Played Out did not disappoint, which was impressive considering the insanely high expectations I had for this book. Definitely worth 5 stars. Everyone should buy it ASAP (March 12 cannot come sooner)!

Now I'm just eagerly awaiting Stella's story!

Also, side note: we get to see Dylan/Silas and Dallas/Carson being all cute and coupley. Totally adorable!