Desert Isle Keeper
All Broke Down
As much as I enjoyed Cora Carmack’s first three books, I was totally avoiding the Rusk University series. First of all, New Adult is a very hit or miss genre for me. I like Carmack’s books but any others that I have read don’t do it for me. They tend to employ the same storylines and devices over and over. Bad boy meets nice girl, gives her a nickname, there’s random fighting, usually over jealousy, maybe sexual abuse, bad boy is a player but falls in love with the girl. However, Carmack manages to avoid some of these and craft a story entertaining enough that I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the few she used.
The second reason I was avoiding this new series is because it is set in Texas and is about football. As a native Texan who is not a fan of football, the combination was kind of a turn off. I did read somewhere that Carmack is also a Texan so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Non-Texans seem to have a really overblown idea of what life in Texas is like. Thankfully, I didn’t find either element to be an issue. I did skim some football parts because I will just never care to read how the big game is going. The Texas thing was a non-issue as, although it was mentioned, it didn’t contribute much to the story. That sounds negative but is actually a good thing. The last thing I want from a story set in Texas is for it to feel like people think Texas is. My state is more than ranches and saying y’all, although both of those are common here.
So All Broke Down starts with Dylan and Silas meeting in jail. Dylan was arrested at a protest that turned disorderly and Silas is there for fighting. Two New Adult genre offenses occur right off the back. New Adult male leads are always getting in fights, and Silas is no different. Seriously, New Adult authors, not all college-aged males resort to violence at the drop of a hat. Whatever, that aside, it gives him a chance to meet our leading lady and commit the second offense: the stupid nickname. In this case, he starts calling Dylan “Pickle” after hearing her friend use it. It’s supposed to be like dill (Dyl) pickle. I hate nicknames in books. Maybe in real life people have cheese-ball nicknames but they usually develop over time or from a specific situation. New Adult guys just meet these girls and start calling them something random with no provocation. It feels forced, and I hate it. Luckily, Silas pretty much drops the nickname after he and Dylan get closer.
All Broke Down hits at least two more from my list of New Adult offense: sexual assault and bad boy meets good girl. Silas is poor and from the wrong side of the tracks. Dylan is rich and a good girl who can’t bring him home to her parents. This trope is so common in romance that I can’t blame it on New Adult alone. There is also a sexual assault discussed later in the book but I was pleased to see that the characters actually handled it through the legal system instead of just fighting it out like most New Adult books. Carmack even includes a note in the end about sexual assault that I appreciated.
Now, up to now, it has probably sounded like I didn’t like this book. Actually, I loved this book. Those offenses all stood out to me as little sticking points that I didn’t love but, as a whole, All Broke Down is great. I’ve said it before but, dang, Carmack can write some sexual tension. Silas is really into Dylan from the moment they meet and it only takes minutes for sparks to start flying. This book was probably more sexual than some of Carmack’s others. It takes awhile for the pair to actually get into bed but before that point they are steaming up plenty of other places.
I really liked both Dylan and Silas, who were were well-rounded characters. It was obvious where their passions in life lay, and it wasn’t just with each other. I think that is one of the best elements of any of Carmack’s books. Too often New Adult protagonists are painted as very one-dimensional. Besides having the hots for the guy or girl, there isn’t much to them. Silas truly loves football and values the camaraderie with his friends. Dylan is a bit of an activist and gets Silas involved in her charitable works. There was more to this than just Dylan and Silas falling for each other – they felt like real people. It also helps that I thought Silas was a super sexy man. He’s a bit of a sleaze, but in all the right ways. Every good girl needs a naughty boy like Silas to shake her up once in a while.
I also appreciated that Carmack isn’t afraid to let her characters loosen up, without making them into after-school specials. The main characters, and the supporting ones, drink and smoke pot recreationally. It isn’t vilified or glorified – it just is. I think that is more true to college-aged people than most New Adult books. There is one scene with Dylan and some pot that focused on the issue of drug use, but not in an unrealistic way. Too often, I have seen New Adult authors toss in one character that is the heavy-drinking, party girl who usually ends up facing negative consequences from her actions. In my experience as a college kid, people drink and do drugs all the time without becoming a stereotype and it is nice to see that in a book.
Overall, All Broke Down is a freaking sexy, light read that I didn’t regret at all. I liked it enough that I will set my prejudice against Texas football books aside long enough to go back and read the first book, All Lined Up.