Pepper's stuck in high school while her boyfriend heads off to college, but lucky for them, campus is just down the road. However, all the pressures of being a senior, a sports star, and Jace's girlfriend are taking their toll, and before she knows it, Pepper's facing injuries and more jealous girls who seem far too interested in her boyfriend.
But... A common problem with a series that focuses on just one couple throughout is that there needs to be fresh drama in each new telling. In the first book of this series, the basic drama was that Pepper loved Jace but (at least for a while) couldn't have him. In the second book, the drama was brought on by mean girls jealous of Pepper's rather solid relationship with Jace. Typical high school stuff. But in this book, Fonzi water skis over a shark an unidentified stalker has become obsessed and poses a real danger to Pepper. Honestly, I'm disappointed. This was a pretty fresh series until it went the route of a million other romances.
The Verdict: Okay, so you know I'm not thrilled about the whole stalker thing. Some might call that a spoiler, but I'm just going to call it a giant cliche warning. Moving on…
Pepper's matured a bit since the beginning of the first book, and now in her last year of high school, she's dealing with Jace being off at college. There's pressure from so many things — pressure to get into a college, pressure to decide which college, pressure to medal in cross country, pressure to somehow hang on to Jace who's now the big man on a new campus filled with older, more experienced girls. It's standard stuff for that age, but that doesn't make it any easier to navigate. It also nearly ruins her when it comes to sports.
Pepper's been pushing herself for far too long, determined to live up to all the hype of her previous wins and land herself a good spot at the same college that Jace is attending. While any relationship split between high school and college has its challenges, they've got one big thing in their favor — Jace is only a few minutes' drive away. He now lives on campus, but he's so close that Pepper can see him every day if needed, so they don't face the same long-distance mess that many their age face. And Jace, for his part, is incredibly devoted to Pepper.
Pepper, however, has really screwed herself up. A little pain in her shins has progressively gotten worse, to the point that she's removed from running altogether and has to go through plenty of healing in order to get back on the trail again. It couldn't happen at a worse time, either, since it's right in the middle of visits to colleges looking to recruit her. And as if that isn't bad enough, it seems someone is out to get her.
The relationship between these two remains solid while heading into a bit more mature territory. Yes, they eventually end up in bed together, and while the scenes aren't terribly graphic (at least compared to a lot I read), I think it takes this into older teen reading territory. Fortunately, the story doesn't become all about sex and happily ever after; it's actually just a pretty accurate look into the heart of a girl leaving high school behind, and I like that even though we've hit the third book, the characters haven't completely changed.
The first two books in this series are fantastic, and this third one is pretty good as well, despite the out-of-place stalker bit. I'm not sure yet if I'll be grabbing the fourth book when it comes out, simply because I don't want the story to go even more overboard with another romance novel cliche — like a pregnancy scare or something. But we'll see. This far in, I might just think it's worth a shot.