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“I’ve still got a little time to decide. The future’s wide open, filled with opportunity. But I’ve got a life to live in the meantime,” Taylor. —Defending Taylor
Hundred Oaks Series #7
by Miranda Kenneally
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers
Taylor Lukens, the daughter of Senator Lukens of Tennessee, has grown up with the philosophy of working hard. She needs to work hard at school and extracurricular activities to get accepted into Yale or another Ivy League school, an expectation of her family—and especially her father. However, when school officials find her with a bag of her boyfriend’s pills, she takes the fall and is kicked out of her boarding school. All of a sudden, her chances of Yale and her father’s reelection get smaller. Will she be able to manage the weight of her lies and her family’s expectations?
Defending Taylor is a story that perfectly captures the pressure that is placed on soon-to-be high school graduates. Taylor struggles between her family’s expectations and her own passions. When she starts to fall for a family friend Ezra, she starts to understand that some risks are positive. With the support of Ezra and her new friends on the soccer team, she tries to follow her dreams and still make her father proud. She realizes that taking the blame for another’s mistakes has cost her a lot and that coming clean is important.
Although this story may seem at first glance to be all about sports, it is not. Soccer is simply a unifying part of the story because it is told from Taylor’s point of view, and soccer is an important part of her life. It helps her build friendships and allows her to do something that she genuinely enjoys. While readers will enjoy the scenes where she is at practice and games, readers should not expect a story revolving around soccer. The story is mainly about Taylor’s budding romance with Ezra and her struggle to live up to her family’s expectations.
Readers will connect with Taylor’s struggles to make friends at her new school and the pressure she feels to please her parents. This story portrays family conflict as a natural part of growing up. While this may seem negative, Taylor’s parents are misguided yet loving family members. There are several good scenes between Taylor and her father. Even though Taylor wants to be perfect, she and other characters are shown to have flaws, making them more relatable.
Defending Taylor is an easy-to-read story that deals with teen issues. The ending is predictable yet satisfying, because everyone finds their way to happiness, even if it’s not where they thought it would be. The story doesn’t shy away from the tough topic of Adderall, Ritalin, and other drugs. Defending Taylor has a good storyline, but the unnecessary profanity and steam sex scenes may turn off some readers.
- As Taylor walks the halls of her new public school, she sees “a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm.”
- Jenna, Taylor’s sister, is being described. She asks for music to be turned down so she can read “a hot sex scene” in one of the historical romance books that she loves. She is also characterized as being “horny” and someone who enjoys sleeping around.
- Taylor thinks back about her and Ben’s, her ex-boyfriend’s, relationship. “We lost our virginity to each other.”
- While texting with her friends Steph and Madison, Taylor gets a text saying that she should “lick” Ezra because he is so attractive.
- Someone makes a joke about Taylor dating Ben, who was a scholarship student. “You’re really dating down, huh, Lukens? You must like ‘em on their knees.”
- Taylor has had a crush on Ezra since they were younger. When describing their past, she thinks of the first time she wore a bikini around him. “He checked out my boobs.” Later, she thinks, “My first kiss, my first hookup, my virginity. I wanted him to have them all.”
- Taylor remembers her time with Ben at St. Andrews boarding school. “Sometimes, his hands would inch under my plaid skirt and cup my bottom through my underwear.” She misses him but thinks, “I can take care of my needs myself.” She then remembers how they lost their virginity to each other. “I’d never touched a guy there before, and when I saw him naked, I was afraid that when we did have sex, it would hurt.”
- When Ben and Taylor are in the woods together, they have sex. “He pushed up my plaid skirt, pulled down my panties, rolled on a condom, then crawled on top of me.”
- Taylor jokes in her head that she expects a man flirting with her in a coffee shop to “send a horny pelvic thrust in my direction.”
- Nicole, a girl on Taylor’s soccer team, is rude to Taylor and says, “He said pairs. Not threesomes. Is that the kind of shit you’re into? Two guys at once?”
- Jack Goodwin, a supporting character, is said to be “shacking up with the help.”
- At a wedding, someone tells a crude joke. “‘What do you call a bad circumcision.?’ Jack asks. ‘A rip-off!’”
- Taylor and Ezra are together alone at his apartment. They start kissing and “his hands trail up and down my arms. . . I pull him hard against me. . . His gaze grows heated as his fingers gently caress my breast through my shirt. . . I push my hips into his. . . He discovers the bluebird tattoo on my ankle, kissing it once before his lips begin working their way back up my legs and between them. His hands join his mouth.” Later, he says that their relationship probably isn’t a good idea. Taylor is shocked; she thinks “I just went down on him—I would’ve slept with him if he’d asked.”
- Taylor and Ezra go on a date after deciding to be together and come back to his house. “He crawls on top of me, moving his hips against mine. I grip his bottom, pulling him closer. He groans at the sensation.” Taylor asks him a question about a previous girl and then they continue to kiss. “I press my hips to his and rock, loving the intimate feel of him.” The scene ends after Taylor accidentally falls off the bed.
- Taylor and Ezra finally decide to sleep together. “His fingertips slide up and down my spine. . . he presses his hot mouth against my core. I tangle my fingers in his hair until I can’t wait any longer.” They have sex, but it is not described in any more detail.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Taylor gets in trouble at her boarding school for being in possession of enough Adderall to be put into juvenile detention. While at school there, she takes Adderall occasionally to study, but the drugs were her boyfriend’s. She does not take any drugs during the course of the novel.
- Before Taylor was caught in the woods with all the pills, her and Ben drank “a bottle of Jack Daniel’s” together.
- When talking about how she always follows the rules, Taylor thinks about how her behavior is not that bad. “Sure, I drink alcohol when I have the opportunity. I drop the F-bomb pretty fucking frequently.”
- Taylor is worried she will be known as “the druggie girl.”
- After the reason why Taylor was kicked out of St. Andrews is made public, a student at her new school keeps approaching her for Ritalin. She looks it up and learns it’s as addictive as cocaine.
- Taylor’s brother Oliver comes home from college. Oliver and Ezra start taking shots in the kitchen after having a talk about Ezra dating Taylor. Taylor ends up stealing two shots. All of them are underage.
- Profanity is used every few pages. Profanity includes ass, assholes, hell, damn, shit, bullshit, bitchy, bitch, and fuck.
- God and goddamned are used a couple times.
- “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” is used as an exclamation several times.
- Motherfucking, badass, dick, bastard, and dipshit are all used once or twice.
- The narrator uses the phrase “having the balls” to do something several times.
- Jenna is described as being a perfect daughter. Taylor says, “She goes to Bible study, for crying out loud.”
- Taylor describes her new calculus teacher as having “the most Biblical beard I’ve ever seen.” She thinks, “Seriously, this guy could’ve given Moses a run for his money.”
- Taylor’s siblings Jenna and Oliver went on a mission trip to Mexico to build houses.
by Hannah Neeley