Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Okay, okay, okay…I want to be transparent with this review. Now, I’ve been reading Monica Murphy’s The Callahans series and most recently the College Years series. And I find myself confused by it. On the one hand, I’m not a huge fan of the style of the books. They oftentimes state directly the actions of the story, but they lack the emotional edge necessary to invest in the characters. But Monica Murphy is brilliant with these stories in that she’s created a group identity with her characters that 1) makes you want to read all of the characters’ stories and 2) there is enough titillation and interest in the type of story afforded each character. She piques this curiosity in her readers that they can’t help but want to read her stories even when the style feels stilted in its presentation. At least, those are my feelings.
When I finished The Sophomore, Jackson and Ellie’s story, I left it with an emotional investment in Murphy’s story in a way that I haven’t felt since, I think, Eli and Ava’s books. I will admit that the beginning of this book annoyed me. Jackson’s indifference and then interest in Ellie is frustrating. His aloofness coupled with Ellie’s inability to say “I’ve had enough” and stick to it made me want to throw my phone at the wall. And I know readers love that kind of stuff. I like it to a point, but Ellie initially reads like a doormat, and I needed her to walk away sooner than she did. However, about the 50% mark, something changes. Well, actually, it’s Jackson who metamorphosizes. The indifferent rockstar finally begins to show the depth of his emotions. At the beginning of The Sophomore, honestly, there isn’t much that is likable about him. He’s a contradiction. He wants music; he doesn’t want it. He wants to play football; he doesn’t really need it. He knows Ellie is the only person who cares about him; she’s too good for him. His friends give him a hard time, yet they are co-dependent in their friendship. Then, the middle of the book hits, and a new Jackson arises. Now, I’ll be honest, some readers might be annoyed at the distance Jackson travels in his characterization so quickly, but I loved it because, like Ellie notices, his capacity to love her existed. He just needed to commit to it.
That’s actually the focus of The Sophomore: Jackson’s need to commit. Once he does, the story transforms into something you don’t quite expect. Some of that stilted style falls away, and it’s replaced with song lyrics that offer up Jackson’s true emotions. Murphy’s style unravels along with Jackson’s indifference, and the last half of The Sophomore becomes this ode to love.
In the end, I found myself enamored with Jackson and Ellie’s story. Thus far, I think it’s my favorite with Eli and Ava’s coming up in a close second. Now, I’m ready for Caleb’s. Will Monica Murphy offer up a tamed Caleb? We will have to wait to find out.
In love and romance,