"I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world.
The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever."
Vaguely known as the big sis of a soon-to-be-famous country star, Bailey Mayfield is asked by her parents-no, commanded by her parents-to lay low while her sister Julie's tour kicks off. If she doesn't, she risks her college tuition, her future, so as unfair as her situation is, she has no choice but to abide by the rules-which is something she's always been good at, but lately has been compelled not to do.
This suppression renders music meaningless for her; once, music was something she loved, but her family has taken even that away from her. Rebellious as she is, or at least claims to be, she'll go out of her way to indirectly spite her parents, because of what they've done, what they've snatched away. And while Bailey Mayfield may be your typical teenager when it comes to sulking over the things she doesn't have, the summer she's stuck at her granddad's house-the ultimate injustice to a self-righteous girl-will be far from typical...
Dirty Little Secret is way more than a YA romance. It has a fantastic, heart-fluttering romantic plot, but it also gives an exclusive glimpse at the personal significance of music, as well as connects readers with an untraditional heroine whose last intention was to fall in love.
Sam is an amazing character, whose depth of emotion is so powerful, so real. Not only did I swoon over him (typical of me, but really, he's adorable!), but I also really felt myself sympathizing with him too. When Bailey meets him, she can tell right away that he will be her downfall. Having had her heart broken before, she knows he's the last distraction she needs, especially when he comes with a tempting musical offer that's vehemently against her strict parents' rules. But one look into his glittering brown eyes, and she finds herself falling for him anyway. And that, as you can tell, becomes a bit of a problem...
As they get to know each other platonically and musically, they both discover there's something between them-something outside of friendship and within great passionate potential-but neither is naÃ?Â¯ve enough to fall for the other, and neither is strong enough to take the chance, which consequently develops a hot, sparked, tumultuous relationship that never catches Bailey a break. The frustration Bailey feels over Sam is raw, realistic, and will be gobbled up by any girl who's ever been in a complicated relationship. Echols weaves an off-key love story that is accurate of what teenage heartbreak is: an ache so exquisite, a pain so depthless in emptiness and intensity.
As a result of different goals, different futures, and different outlooks in life, Bailey is the opposite of what Sam ever wanted, and Sam is nothing like what Bailey really needs. Regardless, they do what teenagers do; they refuse to back down from their desires and choose to treat their hearts recklessly. It is universally acknowledged that in the moment, it is so easy-too easy-to open up to somebody you really connect with, to give yourself wholly to someone you love; this fact is what makes it clear that they are each other's tragedy.
I was really impressed with this book overall because it is the perfect balance of angst, mind-whirling romance, true passion, and self-discovery. Bailey is super relatable and is a well-developed character. I connected with her a lot-particularly over her resent of her family and outlook on relationships-but she's not very likable. She has a no-nonsense attitude, which is amusing and kick-ass at times, but I generally thought she's rather inconsiderate and uncooperative. I know she is supposed to come off as tough (on the surface), but the author overdid it and makes her a bit too much of a bitch. Since Bailey is the narrator, this sours the overall tone of the story. Otherwise, though, Dirty Little Secret is a superbly crafted novel; I recommend this one to those who can appreciate sophisticated young adult with a side of sweet, heart-melting all-American romance.
Pros: Intelligent, respectable tone and issues; mature YA // Complex relationships and characters // SamÃ¢?Â¥ // Insightful behind-the-scenes look in the country music industry // Emotionally sound // Very relatable
Cons: Didn't think too highly of Bailey as a protagonist and narrator // Some of the musical descriptions just didn't click for me... mainly because I don't know squat about country music
Love: "My heart raced and my skin sparkled with the knowledge that no one would disturb us now. No one would stop us. There was nothing to prevent us from losing ourselves to each other, except logic, heartbreak, and every sound reason in the world."
"[Sam's] eyes shifted to me. I never forgot how handsome he was, but when he looked straight at me, his brown eyes fringed with long, dark lashes gave me a shock. A guy should not be this handsome when a girl wanted desperately to keep her boots on the ground."
Verdict: Canny in tone and surprisingly perceptive, Echols's newest novel is a classic YA story about a girl who has her pitch perfected, future planned out, and boots firmly planted on the ground... and the one boy who changes it all. Highly emotional at times and wild and carefree at others-as every teenager's life is-Dirty Little Secret calls to pursuing what you truly love, and dealing with what the things you are given in life. Jennifer Echols masterfully captures the essence of teen romance: that false invincibility a first love makes you feel, and the evident heartache that follows it; pick this one up for a compelling, heart-wrenching, and completely empowering ride.
Rating: 7 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): Not perfect, but overall enjoyable.
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Itching for Books, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review for the Dirty Little Secret virtual book tour (thank you, Jennifer!).show more