YA Review: WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED by Kristin Rae

I really enjoyed Kristin Rae’s debut, WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN, so I expected to like her latest, WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED, but it turns out I liked it even more. So that means I need to gush about it here with a full review.

What You Always Wanted by Kristin RaeTheatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The old movies – I wouldn’t call myself a classic movie buff, although I have a small collection. I haven’t seen all of the movies referenced in the book, but it doesn’t matter. Maddie’s passion for Gene Kelly and her descriptions are enough to carry the reader through. It was a unique but completely believable obsession for her to have.

2. Maddie’s perfect guy – I loved that Maddie had this picture of the perfect guy in her head. But I also loved the question at the center of the story–how Maddie had to grow throughout the story and realize that it’s fine to adjust that image.

3. Maddie’s confidence – Often confidence is something a character has to earn during a story, but in this case Maddie has it in spades, and I liked that about her. Maddie doesn’t back down when faced with a bully or a challenge. It earns her instant friends–and perhaps an enemy.

4. Maddie’s character growth – I alluded to this a bit with the perfect guy point, but Maddie also grows in adjusting her dreams. She has so many strong opinions about who she’s supposed to be and what she’s supposed to do, and she has to take some strong knocks to figure out there are shades of gray.

5. Maddie’s parents – There is a whole subplot with Maddie’s parents that I can’t say too much about here or risk giving something away, but I really liked them. They were dealing with a challenge, and they approached it with grace and optimism, no matter how Maddie reacted. Yay for positive parents!

Have you read WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED? What did you think?

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