The Lovely Reckless
By: Kami Garcia
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.
Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.
Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?
In my mother’s world, there are grand classics and academic texts, and then there are books she terms ‘brain candy’–ones that you can just relax and enjoy. The Lovely Reckless falls squarely into the second category, being a typical teen romance in about every way. But it was so enjoyable to read, I didn’t even feel guilty about it.
I have to admit, the synopsis sounds cheesy, and exactly like every other silly teen romance out there. I let a friend read it, and he gave me an ‘are you kidding me’ look when he got to the part about the tough, sexy, Marco Leone, street racer. But from the first page–Frankie getting caught driving drunk–I was hooked.
Honestly, part of the enjoyment was that this is unabashedly, a brain candy romance. There’s Frankie, a damaged good-girl from the Heights sent to live with her father, and then there’s Marco, the tough and sexy street racer. I would have given this book three stars just based on the romance, which despite the hint of instalove was all I could have asked for. But the plethora of other characters makes this book even more enjoyable. I liked Lex and Abel, Frankie’s friends from the Heights, but I fell in love with Cruz and Sofia and Chief and all of the other inhabitants of Marco’s world.
There was also a decided grit to the book that I really enjoyed. It’s not a polished world, not even pretty, but there’s beauty in it. I enjoyed seeing high school from Frankie’s eyes, I liked the car talk and the badassery of Cruz and Marco. I mean, with street racing as the gimmick here it would be gritty, but there’s an intriguing darkness here as well. Frankie is deeply damaged from her boyfriend’s death, and Marco has enough darkness in his own life to understand her and help her, which I think makes the romance work.
OK, let me gush about the romance. Is it a good girl, bad boy setup? Yes. Is there instalove? Feels a bit like it, yes. Are there forces determined to pull Marco and Frankie apart? Yes. Is there lots of sexual tension and sparks? As it happens. On the surface, it’s deeply typical. However, what I really appreciate is how Marco and Frankie move past the stereotypes and have a genuine, deep relationship based on respect and healing. Marco is the person who helps Frankie move out of her depression about Noah and tries to protect her from herself as much as he can. And I loved how it moved from being very physical to being deeply emotional as well.
What makes this book less than a total stereotype, I think, is the murder mystery. Frankie saw her old boyfriend murdered, but she can’t remember who killed him, and she’s borderline obsessive about it. What I enjoyed was how subtly that plot tied into the larger romance/car-racing one. I also liked how Frankie’s journaling allows her to delve deeper into the mystery and ultimately helps her find the killer.
This book is a fun, gritty adventure through the Downs, and the stereotypes and inversion of them. What I especially like is the anachronism–bad things happen in the Heights, good things happen in the Downs–although there are a number of reasons to like it.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced readers copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.