Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Is it possible for Caleb to be redeemed? The resident unattached playboy of the College Years crew is seemingly unable to settle in with one girl. Even Baylee, his ongoing f-buddy, was unable to tame the wild beast. Yet…on the horizon, there is Gracie, the woman who seems to catch his eye. In true Kindergarten fashion, though, Caleb lives to taunt and irritate Gracie. This is all a ploy, however, because Caleb is intrigued by Gracie, and Gracie is intrigued with Caleb.
One of my favorite parts of The Junior is Monica Murphy’s ability to humanize Caleb using Gracie as the impetus for it. Gracie sees through his base outer person to his vulnerability. Caleb is afraid of mediocrity, of being like his very normal mother and father. For him, chasing women and keeping them at arm’s length allows him to live a life that isn’t too predictable. Until it is, obviously. When Gracie moves into the apartment with Eli and Caleb, he gains access to more of her. When she finds a job on the lake with him, he sees more of her, and he realizes that she is MORE than the women before her. He becomes almost obsessed with her, and it’s there when you finally begin to adore the guy.
As we saw in The Sophomore, Gracie is an independent and insightful woman. She and her friend, Hayden, are mostly responsible for helping Ellie find her way to Jackson. She brings those same skills into The Junior. However, she struggles with becoming vulnerable with Caleb. Interestingly, Murphy crafts Gracie and Caleb as the same person with gender as the difference. In doing so, Murphy takes the space of this story to illustrate the double standards of $exually active men and women. Gracie and Caleb are the same, and yet, they are different. Even more, we find that they are both afraid of allowing love into their lives.
So what is there to love about this story? Well, using the rubric of a typical romance, this one is steamy. Secondly, the evolution of Caleb from unapologetic man-whore to devoted boyfriend makes you fall in love with him. And lastly, when Caleb and Gracie finally allow their friendship to morph into a love relationship, it makes you swoon.
Now, one of the more important components of The Junior is the set-up for The Senior, Eli’s story. Murphy has carefully crafted The Junior to prepare us for the problems between and Eli and Ava, and your guess is as good as mine if they will find their happy ending. By the end of The Junior, Caleb and Gracie have found theirs. We will just have to hope and pray that everything ends as it should when The Senior concludes Monica Murphy’s The College Years series.
In love and romance,