Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 with 5 comments
Title: Magnolia
Author: Kristi Cook
Series: n/a
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

Did you ever succumb to the hype from fellow readers surrounding a book and then wonder if you'd read the same book as everyone else? That was my relationship with Magnolia. I mean, it's cute, don't get me wrong. But someone really should have warned me how very much like a CW drama this really was -- a melodrama rife with clichés -- so that I would have been better prepared.

First of all, there was way too much telling going on. Show me the loathing between Gemma and Ryder. Gemma goes on and on as the narrator about how much she hates Ryder, but neither of them ever really demonstrates this strong dislike. And then that whole thing with Patrick was just yucky. Busy-bodies do tend to make undue assumptions about relationship statuses and the like, but I thought Gemma's feelings of guilt were rather unwarranted since that romance was almost completely one-sided. And I don't think she would have felt so strongly about what happened had others -- Ryder included -- not made things out to be more than they were. But I'm no stranger to small town gossip, where everybody knows your business before you do, even if what they think they know isn't exactly the truth.

And the truth in this story is that Gemma and Ryder may have felt apathetic toward each other, but that's only because of a misunderstanding that was never cleared up, and rather than owning up to their feelings, they allowed things to fester. And allowing old wounds to fester breeds feelings of loathing. But whereas I never really saw them act out their aggression toward each other, I did see the longing looks and the jealousy, which may very well have been the point: that they never really hated each other to begin with and that's why I couldn't see the loathing and had to be told about it.

The dialogue was a bit cheesy and immature at times, but the fact that the story takes place in Mississippi meant that I could read with my Southern twang, so I can overlook a little bit of over-the-top dialogue. Now, one thing I really did like was how realistic the depiction of the storm was. I live in Texas, and I've survived my fair share of hurricanes-come-ashore and tornadoes. And I thought that the author realistically portrayed all of the precautionary efforts, as well as what it feels like to actually find yourself in one of those storms. Not to mention coming out of the safety of your shelter only to discover the devastation the storm left behind.

I did think that there was just too much going on in the story, though, what with the storm and the feud and the third wheel and the cancer and the dance. The storm was entirely necessary to the story, but as I've said, the feud between Gemma and Ryder felt nearly non-existent. But instead of throwing all of those events in there to keep things intense and interesting, maybe just focus on a couple of them? Those are just my thoughts, but it would have made the story more cohesive for me.

I like a Romeo & Juliet retelling as much as the next girl, and when I heard that this was R+J in reverse, I was all over it. But that's actually the aspect that appealed least to me in this story, unfortunately. Basically, I just wanted Gemma and Ryder to quit letting others dictate how they lived their lives, and in that respect, I got what I wanted, though it was a long time coming. Like I said, it was cute, but I think I let others build up my expectations for the book.

GIF it to me straight:
Cute but not what I was expecting based on others' reactions to the book.

About the author:

YA author Kristi Cook is a transplanted southern gal who lives in New York City with her husband and two kids. Her YA debut, HAVEN, was released in Feb. 2011 by Simon Pulse.

Find Kristi:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook


  1. Yes! Thank you for this review. At first glance a few weeks ago, this book didn't really seem appealing to me. I kept reading rave review after rave review and felt peer pressured to add it to my TBR. It's nice to see your perspective to confirm a few of my suspicions. Maybe I won't read this one after all

  2. Oh no! I just bought this book last night because of all the gushing reviews and it just sounds like something I'll adore. But comparing it to the CW? Yikes. That's a definite turn off for me. I'll keep my fingers cross that I didn't get my hopes up too high with this one. Maybe reading your review/lowering my expectations a little bit will be a good thing. Anyway, I wish it had worked better for you, girl. Lovely review. :)

  3. This wasn't even on my radar but lately I've been seeing all kinds of hype. Ugh to clichés :-( It seems like so many books I'm reading lately are just full of them.

  4. I'll tell you right up front that I enjoyed it. I love contemporaries and this is one of my favorites so far this year. And I wasn't influenced or coerced into reading it because I don't read reviews, or even look at star ratings, before I read a book and write my own review. I don't want to be influenced by other's thoughts and opinions because I want to be able to write my reviews based on my own experience. Sorry that you didn't enjoy this one.

  5. Hmm this book has definitely felt overhyped recently, but yours is the first critical review I've read of it. Now I personally enjoy a little CW-type drama every once in a while, but I agree I'd like to know that ahead of time. Going into a novel with completely the wrong expectations can definitely be a frustrating experience.
    I kind of expected that this wouldn't quite be a "me" book, and I think your review confirms that. I may still read it at some point, but I won't be going out of my way to do so. Thanks for the honest review, Jen!


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