Beware of this post! Tons of spoilers ahead for this book as well as “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You.”
“Take Me On” by Katie McGarry
2 1/2-3 out of 5 stars. It’s well written, I just really didn’t like it.
This is a difficult book for me to review because of how much I love Katie McGarry. She has a gift with the written word, and she knows just what to say to tug at my heartstrings. I love how she creates such vivid characters, and as a reader I find myself so torn up when one of the characters gets hurt or when I find out something about their past; Katie writes these broken people who endear themselves to you, and they make you want to scream and cheer when something bad or good happens. Her books are rough and real, and they paint a spectacular image of how broken you can be and still rise from the ashes.
Did I lose you during my fairly long speech about how much I adore Katie as an author? I hope not because I want to explain now why this book review is hard for me to write.
I love Katie McGarry (obviously), but I didn’t like her book, “Take Me On.” I don’t know quite why, but I was confused after I read this story. I still am a little bit, but a long discussion with my sister helped resolve it some, but now I am confused as why Katie did SO MUCH in this one book. Please, allow me to explain.
I love drama, not so much in real life, but in books and movies, it can be quite entertaining. My problem in this book? There was TOO MUCH drama, and it drew away from the characters. I never felt like I got a good feel for who they were; I didn’t have any down time with them because they were thrown into one bad situation after another. This is what I like to call too much situational drama and not enough character development. These characters had infinite potential, but that was cut short because they were always dealing with a new problem. When they did have good character growth, I never got a chance to see it, Katie just had to tell me that they were changing because there wasn’t “time” to show it to her readers. I know that was not Katie McGarry’s intention (she is too good of a writer for that), but there wasn’t enough room for us too see all of that if she was to get the book under six hundred pages. That is what made me really sad after I finished “Take Me On”; I always look forward to seeing Katie’s characters grow and change, and she totally delivered that in “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You,” but mot in this book. I personally saw more character growth in “Red At Night,” which was a hundred page novella, than I did in the four hundred or more pages of “Take Me On.” Again I am going to say, “Take Me On” had infinite potential, but the execution wasn’t the best.
To validate my points above, I am just going to list out all of the things that are in this book. My problem with them is that there were too many for one book, and I personally thought that the quantity of issues drew away from the characters, especially West. Case and point (these are not in chronological order):
1.West got kicked out of his school for fighting,
2. His dad in turn kicks him out of the house, so he has to live in his car,
3. He gets into a skirmish with some shady characters trying to protect Haley (the main girl), who he hasn’t really met yet,
4. Haley uses her fighting experience to help him, which gets her into major trouble,
5. West in turn decides to defend her (again) when she gets cornered at school, and is then set up to fight her crazy ex-boyfriend in three months,
6. His sister nearly died in a car crash and she’s been in the hospital for a long time,
7. He ends up finding out he is an illegitimate child,
8. West gets a job for the first time in his life,
9. He starts up at a new school,
10. Haley’s family lost their home, and now they live with her crazy uncle,
11. She chose her boyfriend over her family, which she now knows was a huge mistake ,
12. She gave up her love of fighting after she and Matthew (her crazy boyfriend) had a fight that turn into a hitting match,
13. And she has to train West so Matthew doesn’t beat him in the ring,
14. And she still has to work, go to school, and be home by curfew or else her family will get kicked out of their temporary home.
Haley’s list of issues makes sense; there are a lot them, but they make a lot of sense. Basically her dad got laid off, they lost their house, they stayed in the homeless shelters but then had to leave, and now she and her family are stuck with her uncle, who is very, very evil. It was kind of like dominos, one thing leading up to the next until there was nothing left to knock over. It’s a lot, but in the fictional realm, it was totally believable. West, however, is a different story.
I loved West when I read “Crash Into You.” Sure, he was a jerk, but you could tell he loved his sister Rachel and the rest of his family; he was just jacked-up like the rest of his siblings. I could tell, while reading “Crash Into You,” that he had everything in him that was necessary for a great male lead. He was actually shaping up to be the kind of male character that would steal my heart away completely, like Kaleb from “Timepiece” or Thorne from “Cress.” Cheeky and smart, characters who’ve been through a lot and it’s jaded them, but they still have good hearts underneath it all. Obviously I was looking forward to seeing West after “Crash Into You,” but looking back on “Take Me On,” I feel like I had a better understanding of him in “Crash Into You” than I did in his own book. Again, it was because I never felt like I saw him; I wanted to but there were too many other things going on, and I didn’t the chance to connect with the character. To me that was heartbreaking because I was really looking forward to getting to know who West was, and how he was going to grow as a person.
I was constantly told that West had accomplished all of these things like, he was getting better grades, he loved his job and was good at it, but I never saw him study and he never stayed at work for long while I read his scenes. How did he have time to sleep in his car, find a shower somewhere, study, go to school, work, and then meet Haley to train? That is what frustrated me so much, and I wish that the situational drama had been less so I could have seen West do and accomplish all these things. Katie has always had a good amount of drama in her books, but she balanced it really well with calm or emotionally revealing moments between the characters so you got to know them. Here are some examples from the previous two books.
“Dare You To” endearing moments:
1. When Ryan gave Beth the ribbon,
2. When Ryan gave Beth the bottle of rain,
3. When Ryan taught Beth to swim,
4. And the moment when they are talking in the old barn.
Those are just a few moments between the two of them that broke my heart but also mended. There are so many other good scenes in “Dare You To” between both these characters and their friends/family that really make them come alive as people, and I loved that!
“Crash Into You” endearing moments that won me over forever and always:
1. The moment when Isaiah and Rachel are in the bar hiding,
2. When Isaiah steps in between Eric and Rachel at her school when Eric threatens her,
3. When Isaiah shows Rachel his favorite thinking place that only his friend, Abby, knows about,
4. After Rachel gets in her accident and West builds her a pulley device so she can work on her Mustang,
5. And when Rachel strikes up a friendship with Abby.
Like “Dare You To” there are so many other great moments that make you care for these characters, but these were the ones that came to mind. Sadly, I don’t feel that “Take Me On” had any really good moments that endeared the story to me. West did have good character growth by the end of the book, but I never really got to see it happen. And with Haley, I just didn’t care because I couldn’t connect with her. She was a flat-liner for me, unlike Beth and Rachel.
I hope you can see where I’m coming from. I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t have the magic for me that the other two did. I still love Katie McGarry, but this was a miss for me.