Published: June 1st 2014 by HarlequinTeen
Format: eARC, 464 pages
Goodreads ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.
West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.
Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.
Here there be spoilers. You have been warned.
Take Me On felt very samey – it felt like Crash Into You with mixed martial arts instead of drag racing.
In fact, it didn’t really even feel like Crash Into You because I believed where Crash Into You was coming from and I found this whole book utterly unbelievable.
My main issue with the characters. They both failed to inspire me in any way. Haley’s father has lost his job and they are now living with her abusive uncle and her cousin Jax. Inexplicably, Haley’s decided that it’s her fault, and takes the weight of her family’s fate on her shoulders. Her brother, cousin, and grandfather all hate her because she left the family owned gym to go train at a rival gym with her boyfriend, who turned out to be the biggest mistake of Haley’s young life so far. I think the author tried to make these training gyms teen versions of street gangs, but I don’t think it worked. I don’t actually believe that all the men in Haley’s family would stop talking to her if she trained at a different gym. Being angry and feeling betrayed, yes, but to stop talking to her? To care for her so little that they didn’t see bruises on her face when she was beaten up, not once, but twice? I didn’t believe that, not when it was apparently so easy for West to see the bruises that she tried to cover up with make-up.
I don’t think Haley had any personality – she was just this cliché of a girl who liked a traditionally male sport and had family issues that made no sense.
However, West wasn’t any better. I could have tolerated Haley, but I loathed West. West is Rachel’s brother (Rachel from Crash Into Me), and when she has that accident, he decides it’s all his fault. I will never forgive this character for making his sister’s accident all about him. He couldn’t see that Rachel might need the support of her entire family: Rachel had one fight with him and West took childishly took that to mean that they were to live the rest of their lives without being in the same room. The idiot.
West claims to have a lot of respect for women: he even tries to convince readers that Kaden and Jax do not respect Haley as he does. But his actions run counter to his words. Firstly, he stole from Rachel, which is despicable. Secondly, he tells Haley they’re in a relationship. He doesn’t ask, he doesn’t make sure she’s OK with it. They’ve crossed the line from friendship and West says “You need time, and that’s fine, but we’re no longer pretend dating. Not sure what it is, but we’re more than that. Thought it’d be simpler if I made that clear.” I don’t know why Haley didn’t beat him up to within an inch of his life. He didn’t even give her a choice, and then did the same thing again towards the end of the book. He also teases Haley a lot to see her blush, but when we’re in his head, he makes it clear that he stops not because he’s making her uncomfortable, but because he remembers that she can beat him up and he “has a healthy respect for that”. The implication being that if she couldn’t beat him up, he’d keep going.
I also disliked the roles of the parental figures in this book, or rather, the lack of any positive parental figures in either Haley or West’s life. I’m getting sick of reading about absent parents, evil parents, or some lethal combination of both. So I didn’t like that Haley had parents who apparently couldn’t care less about her; that West’s father could throw him out of their home and not go looking for him (but stalk him using the GPS on his car, the creep); and that West’s mother (who I hated in the last book) didn’t even realise he wasn’t living at home. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with all the parents in McGarry’s world!
Other things I didn’t like (briefly) include the unwarranted emphasis on the fact that Haley wasn’t a virgin but West was (although the role reversal was great, the way Haley, and West, felt about her earlier relationships was not cool); how West hated Isaiah for no discernible reason (except for his own misunderstanding of what was going on between Rachel and him), and West’s refusal to see the parallels in how far Isaiah was willing to go for Rachel and how West himself felt about Haley, wanting to stand up to her brother, cousin, father, and grandfather; and generally, how both Haley and West were unable to see those around them as PEOPLE, with hopes and dreams and secret and AGENCY, and thus blamed themselves irrationally for things that were utterly beyond their control.
I liked the plot of Take Me On but did find it very predictable. The sub-plots were a lot more interesting than the story about West and Haley, who had all the chemistry of floor-mops, especially those involving the mysterious Abby, and that of the bartender.
Books like this rely heavily on the reader sympathising with and liking the main characters. I disliked both of them, and loathed West in particular. So I didn’t like Take Me On. I don’t think I’ll be picking up future books in this series unless they’re about Noah and Echo (like the next one, Breaking the Rules), or Abby.Blogging Outside the Box is a feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.