Black Diamond (Stark Springs Academy #1) by Ali Dean

Black Diamond (Stark Springs Academy #1) by Ali Dean

5 Stars

Synopsis
It’s not a place for the weak.
No one here tolerates wimps.
If you can’t handle it, leave.

Welcome to Stark Springs, Colorado, home to the most talented young athletes in the world.

When Roxie Slade snaps into a pair of skis, there’s no one on Sugarville Mountain in Vermont who can keep up with her. Not even the boys. Still, Roxie was shocked when she received a scholarship to Stark Springs Academy, a boarding school that churns out Olympians in each graduating class. Entering as a high school junior, Roxie can’t wait to learn from renowned coaches and train with the fastest ski racers from all over the globe.  But upon arrival, Roxie discovers that Stark Springs lives under its own set of rules, and it appears one boy plays dictator.

Ryker Black is not friendly and Roxie cannot fathom why everyone wants to be his friend. Sure, he’s gorgeous and rides a snowboard like it’s his fifth limb, but he’s cold, ruthless, and holds way too much power over the Stark Springs population. Roxie won’t put up with it. She’s here to train, and she doesn’t care about impressing anyone off the slopes. The only problem? Ryker Black doesn’t permit defiance. Not without consequences.

My Review
I was excited to start the next series by young adult/new adult author, Ali Dean. I adored her Pepper Jones series, the way she writes strong females who excel in sports with a heavy dose of angsty romance, and Black Diamond fits that formula to a T. Roxie Slade is a determined skier and a force to be reckoned with in her small Vermont town, but when she has an opportunity to train with the best of the best at the Stark Springs Academy in Colorado, she’ll be put to the test. And not just in the way she thought. She knew she’d have to train hard, that’s what she’s there for, but the egos and competitiveness of elite athletes both on and off the snow and ice is more than she bargained for. While the book isn’t perfect, it’s the first one in awhile that has been impossible for me to put down, earning it a full five out of five stars from me.

Plot
Because this is a sports romance, the plot is is two-fold. Roxie works to fit in as a high school junior where most of the kids arrived in seventh or eighth grade. Joining at her age is nearly unheard of and rumors abound over why she’s there at all. She know she has a lot to prove, but understanding the odd dynamics of the school and the way one student in particular, Ryker Black, seems to be in charge, is just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Academy. Ryker Black isn’t just an alpha male, he’s an alpha, wrapped in attitude, and a temper to match. Yet Roxie sees something more beneath the facade, a vulnerability that draws her to him, even as she knows she should stay far, far away. Everyone’s warned her as much, including Ryker Black himself.

Both plots are intricately woven and well done. About my only complaint about the plot is that I would have liked more of the sports aspect. With the Pepper Jones series, we really got into Pepper’s head during each of her big runs, but in Black Diamond, the actual ski racing is less detailed than the training leading up to it.

Characters
Roxie has a lot in common with Pepper. In fact, in some ways they’re nearly the same character, which is okay with me, because I love Pepper Jone so much. But Ryker Black is no Jace Wilder. There are shades of similarity between some of the other characters as well, but none of that is bad because the story is different enough, I got lost in that and soon forgot the characters felt familiar.

Roxie is fantastic, the type of heroine you can’t help rooting for. Her head’s in the right place, most of the time, and she’s above the pettiness surrounding many of her fellow athletes. At times she comes across mature for her age, other times, she’s a typical teen.

Ryker Black is an enigma. He’s dark, controlling, and yet there’s something there. Something Roxie shows us through her eyes, that allowed me to see more to him than just a stereotype. The boy is complicated and Ali Dean has only scratched that surface so far. I can’t wait to see how his character develops throughout the series.

Ending
The ending was exactly what I was hoping for, satisfying in so many ways.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Not enough skiing.
 As I said above, I would have liked more skiing. The book is short at less than two hundred pages, and I think it could have been a little longer to bring us more skiing from Roxie’s point of view.
2. Stereotypes. The mean girls were relatively stereotypical. They served their purpose, but it would have been nice to see them a little more well-rounded and complex. Especially as elite athletes. There’s a lot of reasons for them to be the way they are, I just would have liked to see a little of that.

What I Loved About Black Diamond
1. Roxie Slade.
 A believable badass both on and off the slopes, she’s got integrity, a strong worth ethic, and a winning spirit.
2. Skiing. I love picturing the snow, the mountains, feeling the cold air. Ali Dean does a great job of scene setting, making the environment come alive.
3. Competitive sports. Another thing the author really does is bring us deep inside the world of competitive sports so that we can almost taste the desire to win.
4. True friends. While Roxie struggles to make friends at Stark Springs, her Vermont friends are true blue, and I love them.
5. Ryker Black. I’m still not sure I’m totally on board with a Roxyer romancer or is that Rykie? In any case, the jury is still out on how I feel about them together, but I can’t deny he is an absolutely fascinating character.

Bottom Line
Black Diamond is a fun, fast read with plenty of drama, angst-ridden romance, and lots and lots of snow.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Black Diamond
Series: Stark Springs Academy #1
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: January 14, 2016
Pages: 185
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance
Rating: 
5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Ali Dean

Author Ali Dean

About the Author
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin babies, and golden retriever.

In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.

Where to Find Ali Dean
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon
.