Welcome to THE HARD COUNT review tour with Ginger Scott,
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Nico Medina’s world is eleven miles away from mine. During the day, it’s a place where doors are open—where homes are lived in, and neighbors love. But when the sun sets, it becomes a place where young boys are afraid, where eyes watch from idling cars that hide in the shadows and wicked smoke flows from pipes.
West End is the kind of place that people survive. It buries them—one at a time, one way or another. And when Nico was a little boy, his mom always told him to run.
I’m Reagan Prescott—coach’s daughter, sister to the prodigal son, daughter in the perfect family.
Life on top.
My world is the ugly one. Private school politics and one of the best high school football programs in the country can break even the toughest souls. Our darkness plays out in whispers and rumors, and money and status trump all. I would know—I’ve watched it kill my family slowly, strangling us for years.
In our twisted world, a boy from West End is the only shining light.
I hated him before I needed him.
I fell for him fast.
I loved him when it was almost too late.
When two ugly worlds collide, even the strongest fall. But my world…it hasn’t met the boy from West End.
- “I glance up just enough to see his smile, all lopsided and perfect, the dimple that he gets when he’s right in its place. I hate him so much.”
– Reagan Prescott
This quote is all about that war that happens inside of us when we acknowledge that yes…yes he’s good looking, but damn it all to hell, he’s still a cocky SOB. Ha!
- “Nico is a wild stallion full of promise and gifts, and I’m not sure if he can be tamed. I’m not sure if he should.”
– Reagan Prescott
I love this quote because it’s maybe the first time Reagan starts to look at Nico as more than just some pig-headed genius that pushes her buttons in their honors class debates. She acknowledges that he might just be special, and maybe she’s okay with telling herself he is.
- “This right here? It’s just a game. What matters are the relationships inside of it.”
– Bob, the trainer
I love my side characters. If you’ve read any of my previous books, you’ve probably noticed that I try to give a lot of time, color and detail to the bit players in a story. I want my reader to feel like they are walking in someone’s shoes, and that means the people you meet along the way in a story all make an impact. Bob is this very small character, but he is, in many ways, the “Silent Bob” of The Hard Count. He delivers profound words of wisdom when they are needed most, and I love his take on what makes this football team so great.
- “Look at me like you expect more. Look at me like it isn’t going to be easy.” Nico breathes the words against my lips, pausing when his bottom lip connects with my top, the faintness of the touch so much better than any other real kiss I’ve had. “Make me earn it,” he says, pausing again to take my top lip between both of his. “I’ll earn it. I’ll never stop trying to earn it…to earn you.”
– Nico Medina
I love this one because it’s where Nico’s stubborn determinism meets swoon. He wants to be tested—he thrives off of it. He knows that when someone is pushing him to be better that he will step up, and this is him showing how he will always step up for Reagan.
- “You can be a toad in love with a beautiful girl all you want, but in the end, you’re still a toad. That’s how everyone is going to see you, and you know what? That’s how the beautiful girl sees you, too—when other people are looking.”
– Nico Medina
This line comes from a class debate about how the original fairytales weren’t about happy endings, but it’s about a lot more than the debate at hand. I love how honest this line is, how it shows how easy it is to let society tell us what we should think—what we should feel, who we should love and their worth in the eyes of the masses. It’s about our ugly sides.
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I love, love, LOVE this book. I enjoy YA, but it has been a very long time since I have truly been moved by a YA book. This book changes all of that! You know the ache you get in your heart when characters are hurt? Audible sighs when they are sweet? Shaking your head in agreement? This was me while I was reading this book. This story, these characters, the themes are just everything!
This story follows Nico, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and Reagan, the coach’s daughter, as they try to navigate friendship, love, expectations, responsibilities, and racism.
The characters in this story are so multi-faceted and complex, which really makes them seem real and makes them more relatable. Reagan, the heroine of The Hard Count, is an interesting character. She is not overly assertive, is a wall-flower, and is pursuing a career in the arts. Unlike her football family, she shies away from the spotlight and excels academically. Ginger Scott uses this character to exhibit the pressure of football on more than just the players. From her point-of-view, the reader gets to see how her mom is destroyed by the pressure of her social circle in relation to the games and her husband’s success. The father is weighed down by the pressure of winning and the school board on his back. Her twin brother Noah is used to show what can happen when the dreams die. Even though she exposes flaws and in the football system, she also showcases how great football is when all the other politics are removed. Reagan and her video showcases the comradery of the players and the support and loyalty they have to each other and the program. It makes me remember why I love football – the Friday night games, traditions, and pep rallies. Reagan and her family definitely expose the issues in football programs while making the reader nostalgic for those football moments from their own memories.
Without a doubt, Nico is the reason I fell in love with this book! He is such a great hero! If I had to identify him in one word it would be good. He just exudes goodness and encompasses everything hopeful in the world. He is smart, makes good choices, owns who he is, stands up for what he believes in, and has respect and loyalty. Like Reagan, his purpose in the novel is to showcase flaws in society, such as the judgment, racism, and prejudices people hide behind, and the flaws and hypocrisy of the scholarship programs in private schools. The other attribute of Nico that makes me love him is that he doesn’t just spout ideas to make the world a better place, he exemplifies them through his actions and words. I can honestly say that he is probably one of the most noble characters I have ever encountered in all my years of reading, and it is completely authentic. Ginger Scott writes him in a way that casts him as a beacon of hope in this story. So while the ills of society are exposed in the novel through Nico, Ginger Scott’s topics, as developed by the plot and characters, especially Nico and Reagan, is one of hope and change.
This is YA, so there is very little sexual action in the story, which is maybe why I generally don’t love them (insert blush here), but this story is so well written, the characters ae so engaging, and the theme of the book rings so true that I just didn’t care. I didn’t even miss it! I just wanted to read more about these people, and I was sad when it ended. I wanted to stay with Nico and Reagan. I want to see them in college and their life beyond. I was just so caught up in these two and their story that I was truly sad to see the book come to an end. There are, however, some opportunities for more stories, so I am hoping I get to see Nico and Reagan again if and when Ginger Scott opens her genius mind in order to create another fantastic football story (a girl can dream, right?). If not, I will certainly be returning to this book year after year as the leaves start to change and the Friday night lights turn on.
This is an absolute must read! Her writing is on point, and the story is fantastic, a mix of sweet, heartbreaking, and poignant.
ARC received in exchange for an honest review.
“You’re still mad at me,” he says, and I glance up just enough to see his smile, all lopsided and perfect, the dimple that he gets when he’s right in its place. I hate him so much.
“Why would I be mad at you,” I sigh, acting as best as I can while my mind races through all of the reasons I am mad at Nico Medina—not a single one of them really his fault.
I meet his challenge, staring back at him, forcing the stern expression to remain on my face, while he looks back at me with perfect lips curved up a hint on one side and unfair eyes that act as target sights. I’m caught in them, and they will not let go.
“You’re mad because of some homecoming dance,” he says, and I laugh once because…fuck!
“Admit it,” he smirks.
“Nico,” I begin, finding it hard to even say his name. “I could care less who you want to go to some stupid school dance with.”
“Couldn’t care less,” he says quickly. I tilt my head and pinch my brow. “You said you could care less, but really…you mean you couldn’t.”
I jerk my hands away and huff.
“Could you?” he says, his hands back in his pockets, his head tilted, angled so I can’t ignore it.
I push my tongue in my cheek and shake my head, glancing away, but always coming back to his gaze. His stupid, perfect, eyes and face that I want to put my hand on. The damned lock of his hair that falls forward when his head leans forward, his tongue caught in his teeth. His kissable lips that I felt in a dream and watched speak in class. His arrogance. His confidence.
“Gah!” I exhale, shaking my head and focusing on the bricked wall behind him. He stands there with one foot against the wall, his back leaning into it, so comfortable seeing me so uncomfortable.
“You make me so mad!” My eyes slide to his, and his lip ticks higher.
“I knew you were mad at me,” he nods.
I stretch my arms out wide, my eyes wider, and I stare up to the ceiling with another shake of my head.
“Fine!” I shout. “Yes, you got me. I’m mad at you! Can I go do class now, please?”
Nico snickers, and I cross my arms over my chest. He pushes forward from the wall, taking a few steps toward me. On instinct, I take one back, but not far enough from his reach. He reaches for my hand again, and I hug myself tighter, tucking my fingers under each arm for protection. I’m throwing a fit now, but I’m this far in, there really isn’t any way to undo it.
Nico holds my elbows when he’s unable to get to my hands, and realizing how ridiculous I would look spinning out of his hold, I give in and let him. His touch is gentle and warm, and I wish I could just get over myself and take his hands back in mine. But I’m scared. My bottom lip shakes with nerves. Nico’s eyes glance at it, so I pull it into my teeth. I want to hide every weakness from him, but eventually I’ll have to curl up inside myself. I have too many.
“Why are you mad at me, Reagan?”
He says my name, and the word falls from his lips soft and sweet. No judgment, no challenge. My lip falls loose from the hold of my teeth and my eyes flutter shut for a long blink. I open again to find him waiting, still looking at me.
“I don’t know,” I say, with a small shake of my head.
“But you are,” he says, and I nod with the same slight movement, sucking in my bottom lip and breathing through my nose.
“Yeah,” I say, my lip falling away and my eyes only able to look at his cheek.
I’m holding myself tighter than I ever have, my fingers actually digging into my sides, my nails rough against my skin through the fabric of my gray Cornwall sweatshirt. Nico doesn’t flinch once. His eyes stay on mine when I give in, and his expression doesn’t shift from the gentle, sweet one he’s held.
His right hand lets go of my elbow, moving to the few strands of hair resting against my forehead, falling over one eye. Nico takes them with his thumbs, moving them behind my ears, his eyes watching his movement then settling back on mine.
“You’ve worn your hair down ever since I said I liked it,” he says.
I breathe in long and deep, letting myself feel this moment—all of it. I have worn my hair down. I did it hoping he would touch it, but never once actually thinking he would.
“That’s how I knew,” he says, and my forehead crinkles. He smiles on one side, repeating the gesture and moving the long wave of blonde hair from my face again. “That’s how I knew I was more than just some guy you wanted on your dad’s football team.”
1 signed copy of In Your Dreams, $10 Amazon gift card
Amazon-bestselling and Goodreads Choice Award-nominated author of several young
and new adult romances, including Waiting on the Sidelines, Going Long, Blindness, How We Deal With Gravity, This Is Falling, You and Everything After, The Girl I Was Before, Wild Reckless, Wicked Restless and In Your Dreams.
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