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Winner Take All

Review

Winner Take All

Winning is everything to Nell Becker. As a middle-class girl in an upper-class private school, she must constantly prove herself. And she does. As volleyball star and valedictorian, she seems to be in complete control of her life. Enter Jackson Hart, the lazy but aggravatingly charming king of Cedar Woods Prep, who is only a thousandth of a GPA point below her. Somehow, they find themselves in a dangerous and enthralling relationship, where trust and control is never given freely. However, when a secret reveals that their relationship was just another game, Nell becomes determined to beat Jackson. But at what cost to herself?

"From the expression on Nell to the action-packed plot, WINNER TAKE ALL bursts with an overachieving energy. This novel will truly resonate with those who have a slight (or major) obsession to be perfect."

Laurie Devore is extremely successful in writing the realistic voice of a perfectionist. Very few writers choose to write from such a complex perspective, and even fewer are accurate. Nell’s actions are constantly driven by her desire for winning and perfection. Though some are a little psychotic, the methods by which Nell deals with her anger completely resonate with me because she uses her hurt and sadness in a constructive and driven way. She’s so obsessed with being the best that often she neglects the people around her. Most of all, she is willing to sacrifice almost everything to win. She has moral laws that she’ll never break, but everything else is fair game. Devore’s voice of Nell is stellar. She highlights all the traits of a perfectionist in an extremely nuanced way throughout the novel.

Another aspect of the novel I liked is how the issue of women’s issues. WINNER TAKE ALL addresses topics like sex, protection and slut-shaming in a jarring light. It’s not the focus of the plot, but these issues exist in Nell’s life. Devore also makes a statement in how Nell must work a thousand times harder to be at the level of her male counterparts. Devore highlights the double standard that girls are held to in modern society. Girls are under constant scrutiny, and Devore makes this a point in her novel.

In the beginning, the novel is harder to read because the reader is placed in the center of the action. In fact, there is always so much action and plot happening at all times. Every character has more than one role. There were hidden complexities in each character, which I think is an interesting technique. While the extra intricacies are well-written, it seems a little extraneous at times. I wish more of the writing had been spent building up the relationship between Nell and Jackson. That relationship starts so rapidly and randomly. When they started dating, I was surprised because there was so little buildup. I felt unsatisfied with how they got together, but their story as a couple was captivating. I could not predict the direction of the story, which is an incredible achievement on Devore’s part. Finishing the novel was very cathartic because it addresses every problem and it ends in the same action-packed way as it begins.

This book is for older teens, as it addresses sex and other mature topics. While it is a teen romance novel, I would be hesitant to recommend it to all teens who are expecting a cutesy love story. It is for the overachievers of the world who believe there’s enough space in their lives for a love story. It’s for the ones who want the world and won’t apologize for it. This is a novel for the overachiever through and through. From the expression on Nell to the action-packed plot, WINNER TAKE ALL bursts with an overachieving energy. This novel will truly resonate with those who have a slight (or major) obsession to be perfect.

Reviewed by Alison L., Teen Board Member on January 29, 2019

Winner Take All
by Laurie Devore