Rant, Review

Review: Hickville Crossroads by Mary Karlik (2020)

Hickville High, Book #4

Heat Factor: Innocent little high school kisses

Character Chemistry: This person looks into my eyes and I get all the tingles. I am not doing relationships right now. But the tingles…

Plot: Scottish actor embeds in rural Texas high school to understand his next role better, accidentally falls for local girl

Overall: It’s YA, so I shouldn’t, but I want to rant.

This book started as expected and largely continued as expected. If you’re an adult who reads YA, I’d say this reads like your predictable rom-com, so if that’s what you want, you’re golden. Presumably youth readers are not expecting adult prose, so this probably exists as a YA romance just fine as well. 

I knew what I signed up for. I read the blurb and it was accurate. But here are some takeaways for the prospective reader:


Fraiser played another character’s son on a BBC period drama thing. Now that show’s over and he’s got a contract to play a leading role in a Hollywood production, but as a child actor he was primarily tutored. So, in order to get him familiar with American high school life, the film producers decide to have him attend an American high school for a couple of weeks – anonymously, of course. Because he’s not going to stick around, there’s one rule – no girls, no dating. But he meets Jenna, who is a very average American high schooler. She has her group of friends, she has a big family, she has her truck and her partial independence (as seniors do). Because she’s one of five children, she needs a scholarship to attend her dream university and become a biomedical engineer. That means she needs to be valedictorian. That means she needs to focus on her studies – boys are a distraction, so there will be none of that during her senior year. 


Unsurprisingly, these kids are not all that mature. They are seventeen. Frasier, having had a completely different life than Jenna, is a bit more mature than her, but he still lets his hormones guide his actions. He knows he’s deceiving Jenna and everyone else, and he knows he’s only in town for a couple of weeks. But there’s just something about that Jenna. 

Okay, so Frasier is deceiving Jenna (and everyone), and then before he can make things right he has a family emergency and has to take the next flight back to Scotland. Are his actions ideal? Not really. But Jenna is next level self-involved and it made me totally nuts. And when the opportunity presents for the adults in her life to maybe help her realign her perspectives, they only give half good advice. It’s pretty narrow-minded. This, compared to Frasier’s mom, who actually gives him really good advice. 

What does Jenna do? This story follows the typical deception plot trajectory:

  1. Hero assumes fake identity, falls for heroine, realizes he needs to come clean
  2. Heroine learns about the deception before hero can tell her and loses her mind
  3. Heroine refuses to talk to hero because he’s such a terrible person for deceiving her
  4. Hero, with patience of a saint, doesn’t give up until he can talk to heroine

First of all, Jenna immediately jumps into “Frasier lied to me about his identity so obviously literally everything he ever told me is also a lie, and how could he play with me like that, especially when he knew I didn’t want to deal with boy issues this year!?!” 

Frasier tries to get in touch with her almost 20 times in just a couple of days (including before she figures out his identity), before he gets to Scotland. But Jenna is butthurt because some mom recognized Frasier before he could confess, and she refuses to talk to him. So when she finally decides she’s ready to confront him at school, he’s already in Scotland. 

THEN, Jenna is enraged because Frasier just LEFT?! Without even SAYING ANYTHING?! HOW DARE HE!? (At this point she does acknowledge that he did try to contact her a bazillion times, so I guess she gets millipoints for that. Things do not improve.)

While Jenna is in her insular world of “how dare he do this to me,” Frasier is dealing with some really serious stuff. He’s also pretty constantly being harassed by paparazzi in Scotland, so a quick online search would probably tell Jenna what his deal is, but she’s very busy being indignant. Even when there’s this big reveal press thing about his secret at the school, instead of having an inkling that maybe she doesn’t have the full picture, she gets angry that he deceived everyone and can’t be bothered to come to the school himself instead of sending other actors. What. A. Jerk.

I pretty much lost it at this point because HOW SELF-ABSORBED IS THIS GIRL? This guy, about whom she knows basically nothing, and whom she has known for one week, deceived her, yes. But she never gave him an opportunity to explain anything, and she has no idea what’s going on in his life. How could she? She’s completely cut him off, and by the time she decides to reach out, he’s returned his American phone to the film production company. And yet she’s continuously offended by everything about him. 

And somehow I’m supposed to believe that this girl who doesn’t trust this boy is meant to be in a long-term, long-distance relationship with him because their connection is THAT GOOD? Are you kidding me? 

I mean, yeah, it’s a YA romance, so things get resolved in a neat little bow. I’m just super over this whole hero-has-the-patience-of-a-saint / heroine-has-the-maturity-of-a-tadpole narrative. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Well, if you love the whole deception plotline…

Young Adult romances

Actor heroes

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