(This is the fourth book in the Pepper Jones series, which should be read in order. The first three books in the series may be purchased as a box set for a discounted price, under the title “The Pepper Jones Collection.”)
Pepper’s freshman year at college is a harder transition than she anticipated. Uncertain of her coach’s expectations or her place amongst her new teammates, she struggles to redefine her running goals and identity on the cross country team.
Pepper’s steady relationship with Jace should be a source of comfort as she navigates the college social environment, but an unexpected event throws everything between them off track.
Also, hear from Jace’s point of view for the first time EVER. Growing up is hard, and when you’re Pepper Jones, running may be the only way to help you get through it.
*This book contains mature content.*
I feel like the story I fell in love with is back. The third book didn’t grip me the way the first two did, but this fourth installment as riveting as I’ve come to expect from Pepper Jones and Ali Dean. Our little Pepper is all grown up and a freshman at CU, where Jace is the star quarterback in his sophomore year. Pepper learns that running among the elite in high school, with back-to-back national championships, didn’t prepare her for the grueling world of college cross country. As Pepper navigates college with Jace by her side, while not easy, life is manageable. When an unexpected event turns Jace’s world upside down, Pepper struggles with how to support him without losing herself.
This time around we get to hear from Jace, and he sounds exactly as I expected him to. The conflict and tension are at an all-time high, reminding me what it is about these stories I love so much. I read it in less than a day, something I haven’t done with a book in a long time.
There’s a lot going on plotwise. Pepper is learning the ins and outs of college life, running competitive cross country on a whole new level, one that doesn’t have her head and shoulders above everyone else, her relationship with Jace is tested in a way it never has before, and she must learn how to really be her own person for the first time.
This is probably the most character development we’ve seen so far. Both main characters go through tremendous changes, and in the end, they will discover things about themselves and each other that challenges everything they know. I love Pepper’s arc the most. It’s heartbreaking and inspiring. She grows so much and I just love seeing the independent streak she develops. I adore Pepper Jones, she’s one of my favorite young adult (now new adult) contemporary characters, and seeing her blossom is really rewarding.
Pepper’s world is very different as she moves out of Gran’s apartment and into a dorm on campus. Ali Dean does an excellent job of showing how this dramatic change influences Pepper’s world. The lighthearted ease of high school is gone and Pepper is thrust into a world of parties and independence where not everyone makes the best choices. This is college life at it’s core!
The ending is gut-wrenching and yet beautifully done. I know some people won’t be happy with it, but to me it was necessary. I won’t give anything away, but the more time that’s passed, the more I realize how perfect the ending is and how excited I am to read the next book in the series. Although rumor has it, I’ll need to wait until early 2016 to get my hands on it.
Top Five Things I love about Pep Talks:
1. Pepper’s new friends. Pepper’s roommates and teammates make for some fun and interesting new characters.
2. Jace. Getting inside his messy beautiful head was like extra thick frosting on my favorite birthday cake.
3. The running. I love how we get to see how the world of college running compares to high school. I thought this was one of the more fascinating aspects of the book.
4. Pepper’s growth. Watching her mature is rewarding. Yes she still makes mistakes, but she’s owning them like the fierce young woman she’s becoming.
5. Wes. He doesn’t have quite the presence he did in earlier books, but I love that he comes home from his Ivy League school for a visit and in the end, Wes is always just Wes.
Pep Talks is a return to the world of Pepper Jones that I love — lots of angst, running, and oh yeah, Jace Wilder.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: Pep Talks
Series: Pepper Jones #4
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: July 30, 2015
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
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.