We Are the Wildcats: A (Blog Tour) Review

“They already know they will never forget tonight. And it’s only just getting started.”

We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan VivianBeing a Wildcat means team first, always. It means grueling workouts, a second family, and always, always listening to Coach. It means Field Hockey, and nothing else, during the season. Sure, there are other teams at West Essex. Sure, the entire school’s mascot is the Wildcat. But when you talk about the Wildcats everyone knows you’re talking about the girls’ Field Hockey team.

After a crushing end to their last season, all of the returning girls have something to prove:

Mel didn’t come through the way she expected in their last games. She didn’t lead. Now, more than ever, she needs to show Coach and the other girls that she has what it takes to be the captain this year. She knows that starting the season off right with the annual psych-up dinner and distribution of their varsity jerseys is exactly what the team needs.

No one works harder than Phoebe on or off the field. She might have to go twice as hard to keep up with Mel’s effortless skill. But she doesn’t mind. Being a part of the team is worth it. Even after blowing out her ACL, Phoebe doesn’t regret anything she did for the team. She made her choices and it’s only a matter of time before she’s back on the field.

Ali is one of the best goalies the Wildcats have ever had. Which is why it was so shocking when she let two goals by with almost no fight in their championship game last season. Now Ali is ready to prove to herself and her team that she is ready. Even if it means facing Darlene McGuire again. Even if it means missing her nephew’s first birthday to make sure she’s at their scrimmage.

Kearson wasn’t supposed to be on the varsity team at all. But when Phoebe is injured she’s ready to step up for the team and, especially, for Phoebe. But being chosen to join the team isn’t the same as belonging on the team. Something Kearson is still struggling with at the start of the new season.

Then there are the new girls: sophomore Grace and incoming freshman Luci. Both of them know being a Wildcat is something special. But as their first night together as a team takes an unexpected turn all six girls will have to decide how to balance putting the team first with taking care of themselves in We Are the Wildcats (2020) by Siobhan Vivian.

Find it on Bookshop.

We Are the Wildcats is set over the course of twenty-four hours with chapters alternating between close third person chapters following the six characters above as they all come to terms with what really went wrong last season and Coach’s role in it. Except for Ali who is Korean-American and Luci who is half Argentine, all of the characters are described as white.

Vivan delivers a tense story of friendship, team camaraderie, and intersectional feminism as each character tries to reconcile the love they feel for their sport and their team with what is increasingly clear is a toxic relationship with their coach. The suspense amps up even higher as the novel moves to its dramatic conclusion when the team finally unpacks all of Coach’s lies to realize how much he has been manipulating them and the school during his tenure.

Excellent writing and distinct personalities for the POV characters make this story immediately engrossing. Although abrupt the ending is satisfying as each girl works to find balance between supporting their teammates and putting themselves first.

We Are the Wildcats is a must read if you like your intersectional feminism with a healthy dose of sports and camaraderie.

Possible Pairings: Tumbling by Caela Carter; Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura; Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry; The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Author Interview: Siobhan Vivian on Stay Sweet

Burn for Burn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan VivianLillia is pretty, rich, and used to getting everything she wants including having boys wrapped around her little finger. Until things go too far over the summer. After that Lillia isn’t sure of anything–especially how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to her little sister. Ever.

Kat is tired of being an outsider subjected to insults and cruel jokes. She knows her former best friend is to blame. She might even know how to make her pay.

Mary left Jar Island four years ago because of a boy. She’s back now. She’s ready to show him just how different she is. And just how much he has to make up for.

These three very different girls are all after the same thing in Burn for Burn (2012) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.

Find it on Bookshop.

Burn for Burn is the first book in a series as well as the first book Han and Vivian have written together.

Revenge stories like this one always run the risk of being one-sided. There is also always the potential that the protagonist will come across as unsympathetic or just plain mean.

Han and Vivian avoid these common pitfalls in Burn for Burn. The authors have created a convincingly idyllic island town with secrets and, for Lillia, Kat, and Mary, many wrongs just begging to be righted.

With chapters alternating between each girl’s narration, the story examines each heroine’s motivations making readers more than willing to follow this trio on their missions of revenge.

The objects of the girls’ wrath are also generally well-developed with both good and bad moments during the narrative. Alex is particularly dimensional. I would have liked to see more of Rennie and Reeve’s good sides, such as they are, but that might come up in the sequel.

While Burn for Burn focuses on all three girls and their plans for revenge the pacing shifts so that most of the story focuses on Lillia and, to a lesser degree, Kat. Mary is important as a device to move the plot forward but doesn’t get as much chance to feature as a character in her own right.* Things progress in a logical fashion until the last quarter of the novel when Han and Vivian start to rush, perhaps in an effort to amp up tension before the shocking finish.

By the end of Burn for Burn, Han and Vivian have managed to turn a lot of preconceived notions about the characters and the story itself upside down. With a cliffhanger ending and a lot of unanswered questions Burn for Burn is sure to leave readers clamoring for the sequel.

*I have a lot of theories about Mary and the ending of Burn for Burn. If you’ve read it, I bet you do too. Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin, The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst, Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Exclusive Bonus Content: I really like the idea of the cover with the three girls and the muted colors that suggest a potentially sweet story. I think the depiction of Mary (center) is especially accurate to her character and spot on from her clothing to her jewelry.

Kat (left) looked a bit too refined and clean-cut compared to the Kat we meet in the novel. And, of course, I was thrilled with Lillia (right) being such a well-rounded, central character who is Korean (and on a cover).

But again that comes with a caveat: The jacket art wraps around from the front cover across the spine and to the back of the jacket so we can see all of Kat and Mary. Lillia is on the edge of the cover and, theoretically, her image could have wrapped around under the flap copy (since the image is so muted anyway) but instead it’s abruptly cut off with a white box for the summary text. It’s probably coincidence that the person of color was the one cut off, but it still made me think.

Also, since I’m already dissecting everything else about the cover, I thought it was odd that Mary was in the center. Her arrival sets a lot of things in motion but as I said she is more plot device than character at this point. In terms of page time Lillia is the obvious choice for the center of the cover (with Kat a close second). Yet, both of them are on the periphery of the cover.

I don’t know how long it will be up but if, like me, you were deeply affected by the missing part of the cover Jenny Han’s website currently features the entire image from the Burn for Burn cover.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*