Chasing McCree by J.C. Isabella
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: April 4, 2012
Pages: 219 pages
Reviewed By:Kate McMurry
Chase McCree is almost 18 and has spent his whole life on a ranch in Montana that has been in the McCree family for generations. For the past few weeks Chase has been staying in Florida with his mother, whom he hadn't previously seen for years. His mother abandoned Chase and his father when Chase was a very young child. She could not endure what, to her, were harsh conditions of ranch life, but she didn't feel right taking Chase away from his father, who was a very good parent, and Chase's birthright in Montana.
Chase's father died a few years back, and Chase's paternal uncle and his uncle's wife have been his guardians ever since. His mother has belatedly tried to make a relationship with Chase, now that she is remarried to a lawyer and has a young daughter. She has asked Chase to consider living with her permanently, but Chase has only promised to try that on a temporary basis. His mother has signed him up to attend a ritzy private school, which is a huge change for Chase, because until now he has been home schooled. Chase cannot relate to the rich, arrogant kids at the school and is living an isolated, lonely life, longing to return home to Montana.
Late one night Chase is riding his horse Ash--a companion from home he could not bear to leave behind--on the football field of his school. He runs across one of the school's cheerleaders, a small, pretty blond who is stumbling blindly across the field, clearly drunk and disoriented. Chase's strong, protective instincts are immediately aroused, and with great finesse, he rescues her and carries her away on his horse.
After that remarkable first meeting, a friendship forms between Briar Thompson, the cheerleader, and Chase. Briar is a few months younger than Chase. In knowing him, she is exposed to a type of person she has never known before. Her parents and all her so-called friends from school are social-climbing materialists with an inability to care about or be loyal to anyone. Chase is entirely the opposite, sensitive, giving, loyal, and connected to things that have real meaning, true friends, a loving family, and a life close to the earth.
When on impulse Chase invites Briar to spend the summer at his ranch, he is as amazed as he is delighted that she instantly and enthusiastically agrees to go. However, it is only possible for her to do this due to the combination of the help of a co-conspirator, her adorably quirky grandmother, and the routine physical and emotional abandonment of Briar by her parents. Briar's grandmother thinks her son, Briar's wealthy, workaholic doctor father, is an idiot for paying so little attention to Briar. And Briar's mother, who is only interested in botox and fashion, is even worse.
This story is written in the alternating first-person point of view of Chase and Briar, with each switch in point of view clearly labeled with their names at the top of the page. It is a terrific change in YA to see the use of dual POV which has been a staple of the adult romance genre for almost 30 years. It offers a great chance to get to know the hero, and Chase is an extremely sympathetic one. In spite of the fact that he has almost no flaws, which supposedly should make him a boring character to read about, he is anything but dull. The author does an outstanding job of believably demonstrating him capable of being Briar's friend, even though he has had a very conventional, rural upbringing in Montana.
Speaking of Montana, one of the most fascinating aspects of this book as a YA novel is its setting. The Big Four hooks of short, contemporary, adult romance are cowboys, cops, brides and babies, which are rarely found in a teen novel. This book, however, draws on that rich tradition of romance conventions by offering a beguiling cowboy and plenty of humorous references to these two teens avoiding a "shotgun wedding" via an unplanned pregnancy--which is another frequent occurrence in short contemporary adult romance. In this book, teen sex and resulting pregnancy are carefully skirted by these two virgin protagonists, with Chase honorably respecting the boundaries that Briar draws.
This book does what only the truly exceptional romance novels achieve, it convinces the reader that these two protagonists are soul mates whose lives would be forever blighted if they did not manage to achieve a happily ever after. I was rooting for Chase and Briar as a couple from start to finish.
Other than the heroine, against her will, being "slipped a mickey" in the beginning of the book, there are no instances of teen drugs or drinking in this book. There are examples of boys disrespecting girls and frank discussions of the need for teens to be responsible about sex, and a few makeout scenes, but no overt descriptions of sexual acts. This book is probably most appropriate for teens of about 14-18.
I purchased a Kindle edition of this self-published book. The formatting and editing is not optimal, but not so bad that it was difficult to read the book.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Mystery/Thriller Plot: 4