Title: Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Genre: Young Adult
Not since Eleanor & Park have I read a Young Adult book that treats the topic of growing up and falling in love with such honesty and heart as Stealing Parker does. An underrated gem of a book, Stealing Parker, the second installment in the Hundred Oaks series, attempts to be more than a typical YA novel. It deals with sex, love, religion and growing pains in a thought provoking way. If you are looking for a book that goes beyond the typical tropes of love triangles, Mary Sues and super-hot love interests, Stealing Parker is a must read.
Stealing Parker tells the story of Parker Shelton, an all-star softball player and valedictorian who falls from grace after her mother comes out as a lesbian. Determined to prove that she is not like her mother, Parker kisses and flirts with every boy in sight. She garners a promiscuous reputation that, when combined with her mother’s scandal, alienates her from church and school. Abandoned by her friends, Parker quits the softball team and focuses on other endeavors, like getting into Vanderbilt and hanging out with her best friend Drew Bates. But when Coach Barnes asks Parker to help him manage the boy’s baseball team alongside the hot new assistant Brian Hoffman, the former queen of diamonds finds herself on a journey full of heartache, forbidden romance, religious awakening and self-discovery.
I was very surprised by this book. Initially I came across the title on Goodreads when I was searching for books that involved women playing baseball. There aren’t enough novels out there that deal with this particular topic and while Stealing Parker is a little weak when it comes to the baseball, (Parker only plays softball for a short time towards the end), it is rich in plot and character. Kenneally succeeds in making Parker a three dimensional character. She’s not a typical tomboy. She likes to dress up, kiss boys and do school work. Some reviews I’ve read have criticized the book for making Parker seem unrealistic. After all, how can a girl who is as flirtatious as Parker, maintain the grades needed to be valedictorian? While I understand their point, I think Parker is more realistic than other characters I’ve come across in YA fiction. She’s not as strong as Katniss, but she isn’t weak like Bella either. She is just a normal girl trying to find herself.
There is a heavy religious aspect to this novel. Almost every chapter ends with Parker writing a note to God. In fact, there is a whole subplot about the church turning its back on the family because of her mother’s sexuality. Some may find this offensive, because it paints Christianity in a bad light. However, in the end, Parker develops a stronger relationship with God that actually helps her mend her relationship with her mother. It’s the typical crisis of faith. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you see the light.
This book also deals with forbidden romance in the form of Brian Hoffman. The assistant coach of the boy’s baseball team, the twenty-three year old Hoffman develops a friendship with Parker that quickly escalates into something more. The relationship is uncomfortable at times and there is one scene with sexual content that may be unsuited to younger readers. With that being said, Kenneally uses this relationship as the foundation for a positive and inspiring message about love and sex.
My one problem with the book was the ending. Nothing is really wrapped up. There are too many lose ends. Kenneally could have easily added another few chapters to allow proper closure for her characters. I’m willing to overlook this shortcoming however, because Kenneally deals with high school life-love, loneliness, drama–in a way that made me reminisce about my own adolescent experience.
Overall, Stealing Parker is a fun and inspiring novel that is perfect for readers looking for something just a little different.