I recall when Catching Jordan was released - I was interested in it, but didn't want to spend the $7.99 to buy it for my kindle. It stayed in the back of my mind for what is now about three years, as it was apparently released in December, 2011. The rest of the series was pretty much off my radar (in fact, I didn't actually know that it was a series).
When I started exploring Kindle Unlimited, I realized that the first two books of what has come to be called the Hundred Oaks series, so called after the small Tennessee town in which the series is set.
The two books are a bit misleading, because they both deal with fairly substantive themes, but they do it in a way that, in my opinion, isn't entirely successful. I don't think that Ms. Kenneally has made up her mind what kind of a writer she wants to be
Catching Jordan is generally the story of Jordan Wood, who is the very talented quarterback for her high school football team. She is also a girl. Her dad is a professional football player, and her brother is a college football player. Her lifelong dream, which her father does not support, is to go to college and play quarterback for Vanderbilt.
There are a lot of themes, particularly related to women's equality - especially in athletics - which are explored in this book. Unfortunately, I really didn't feel like they were explored very well.
I struggled, honestly, with the idea of Jordan as quarterback princess. This is not the first time that we've seen that in popular culture. Heck, Helen Hunt played The Quarterback Princess all the way back in 1983. Maybe it is just my own internalized issue, but I can't buy a young woman playing quarterback for an elite NCAA Division 1 football team. The vast majority of talented high school quarterbacks are actually not recruited to play Division 1 football. Jordan doesn't just need to be the best in her high school, she needs to be the best in the nation.
And, the fact simply exists that while girls develop earlier, by the time they reach eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, their physical strength is simply outstripped by their male counterparts. So, I can buy Jordan as a quarterback in middle school, and I can buy her a quarterback in high school - although this is more of a stretch - but playing Division 1 football just leaves me, well, unwilling to suspend disbelief.
So, some of the things that Miranda Kenneally had to say were valid. Jordan's treatment by Vanderbilt left me gritting my teeth in rage. Rather than taking her seriously as a player, they wanted to dress her up like a southern belle and use her as a recruiting tool, a centerfold model, and a mascot. It was supposed to piss me off, and it did. But I was left with the unhappy experience of feeling like they should have taken her seriously, but taking her seriously probably meant that they needed to destroy her dream.
And, then, that makes me think, well, wait. Is her dream unreasonable? And what do we do when our girls have dreams that are beyond their reach because they are girls. No matter how amazing a basketball player a woman is, the NBA is out of her reach. Sure, she can play for the WNBA, but, if we are being honest - and we should be honest - this is the prize given to a runner-up. The rewards, financial, athletic, and societal are simply not there for women like they are for men. Everyone knows the name of their local NBA team. Almost no one knows if their city even has a WNBA team, and if they do, what it is called.
But, I digress and now I am just rambling. Also, maybe I am taking Catching Jordan way too seriously, because, serious themes aside, what this is a fluffy YA contemporary romance. And using that framework only, it's probably a two and a half star read. It was average - average characters, average romance.
But based on Stealing Parker, I'm going to hypothesize that I think that Miranda Kenneally is trying for something more than just fluffy YA contemporary romance. That she wants to provoke a dialogue about the roles of women and girls in athletics and in life with her readers, most of whom will be younger than I am.
And she did, with me, right? Because I just spent many long paragraphs riffing on that theme. So, even though I'm not sure she succeeded, I am going to give her the respect that is due for trying. And that gets her another half-star.