Previous book here.
Beth Risk has had a hard life. Dad left the family, Mom's an addict both to drugs and her abusive boyfriend Trent, and Beth spends a lot of time just trying to keep everyone fed, keep the lights on, and keep her mom out of jail. Which is why Beth takes the rap for when her mother is smashing in car windows, and it's why her long-lost uncle Scott is called to take her in. Scott and Beth were close when she was a little kid, and then he went into professional baseball at 18 and left her behind. She's hella resentful, under the circumstances, and is freaked out at being forced to abandon her mother. But Scott says he'll get her mother sent to jail if she doesn't behave, so.... there you go, she'll behave.
Ryan Stone lives in the farm nearest to the Risks. He's an aspiring ballplayer himself and he's debating whether or not to go to college and major in writing or to go straight to the pros like his dad wants. Dad pretty much rules the roost at home, which makes it difficult for anyone to disagree with him--or in the case of Ryan's brother, come out of the closet. Now brother Mark has left/been kicked out of the family and Ryan misses him and kind of wishes his brother could have just kept faking it awhile longer so he wouldn't be stuck dealing with his parents alone. Ryan's also a competitive sort and gets into bets with his friends--including whether or not he can get the phone number of a "skater girl" (that would be Beth) at Taco Bell. He can't, but when she turns up at school a few days later...hey, game on, still.
Anyway, Ryan and Beth hit it off--Ryan takes Beth as she is, not based off of her family rep or punkass appearance that she's currently rocking. Even though this starts out as a "bet" scenario (most of which go rotten really fast), the whole bet thing is handled reasonably and eventually dropped as a plot point. Beth gets that Ryan loves her and doesn't fall for Ryan's ex Gwen trying to do various headgames trying to get him back, which I really liked. However, Beth is totally afraid her mother will either OD or die at the boyfriend's hand, and she's desperate to get rides back to Louisville--Ryan conveniently goes out there for coaching--to check on her and work on some way to get the two of them Away From Here. She's also pretty desperate to reunite with her closest friends, Noah (from the previous book, he and Echo pop in occasionally) and Isaiah. Beth considers Isaiah her best friend and doesn't get that ah, he feels more than that about it. However, she falls for Ryan instead, who's good at white knighting and accepting her for who she is even as she goes through mama drama hell.
Even though Beth's situation is incredibly scary--you kinda can't blame adults in this story for being wigged out by her-- and Ryan's problems are by comparison rather mild, you do feel for both of them and think that they're nice kids--even Beth when she's not in defense mode. Now if she can just relax enough into living in the sticks....but then there's her mom to worry about. I was worried for Beth, but did enjoy the story.
So, overall, four stars.