Magnolia by Kristi Cook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 2014
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.
Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.
But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have looked twice at this book. I mean, I hated the cover at first sight, and I was looking for books in a series (something to keep me up at night). I only read this because I had nothing else to read.
Magnolia was not what I expected. When I read the synopsis, I was expecting to read about a douche baggy (is that a word?) kind of guy and a popular- and maybe even snobby- girl. Needless to say, I got the opposite.
Jemma and Ryder have been practically betrothed since they were born. Their families share a long-time bond, and have been neighbours for decades. Jemma and Ryder were once buddies. In fact, they liked each other during the days before puberty struck. Their parents, though, aren’t fazed by the apparent animosity between their children. They never lose hope that their families will one day be joined by marriage.
When Jemma’s sister suddenly falls sick, her parents alongside Ryder’s mom travel out of town to be with her during her medical procedure, and Jemma is left home alone. Ryder, of course, is asked to look after Jemma, so when the storms arise, they have to cope together at her house. As they spend more time in each other’s company, their old friendship begins to re-emerge. The chemistry that they have ignored for so long makes them realise that there is only a fine line between love and hate.
What I love most about this book is the fact that the story was centred mostly on the storm. Even though it turned out to be different from what I had expected to read, I ended up liking the story (to my greatest surprise). The fact that Jemma and Ryder have known each other right from the crib makes the storyline work.
Apparently, Jemma only claimed to hate Ryder because of a grudge she had kept right from when they were in eighth grade. Ryder, on the other hand, had no idea why Jemma hated him: he was quite in love with her. In the course of reading this book, I found myself wanting to slap Jemma for not actually telling Ryder what her issue with him was (and for keeping a four year old grudge in the first place).
I did like the pacing of the story; it wasn’t too rushed or too slow. I also thought it was funny when, after they had gotten past their hang ups, they had to hide their relationship from their parents, so that there won’t be a big fuss, and wedding bells ringing. I loved the subtle- but backwards- Romeo and Juliet references. Everything was beautifully described, and even the minor characters sort of had their major roles to play.
Magnolia is everything I like in a YA read, and it remains one of my favourites.