First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….
With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).
So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.
Item #1? Hook up with a jock.
Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.
Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.
Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.
If you don’t know yet, I’m very much addicted to Cora Cormack’s Rusk University series. In fact, I want to enroll there and major at ogling football players. Alas.
Book numero tres is Nell and Torres’s story. Getting more of Torres, who was Silas’ housemate and also part of the Rusk University football team, upon reading All Broke Down was one of the many things that made me incredibly fond of the book. His character made me laugh so effortlessly and I knew then I needed to more of him. I just adore characters with a great sense of humor and I couldn’t help but be thrilled for All Played Out. I definitely had high expectations that book three will turn out to be a very fun read. As always, Cora Carmack did not let me down.
“My brain has never been the problem. But my heart is an equation I don’t know how to solve.”
Nell, who we also briefly met in the second book as Dylan’s studious room mate, and is the leading lady for All Played Out, was interesting to read. Torres dubbed her “girl genius” which was apt because this girl was diligent. Focused on her academics. Maybe a little too much that she hasn’t been able to enjoy a normal college life. When she comes to a realization that she should explore the fun possibilities of college, she makes a bucket list of normal college things to do. This aspect- how All Played Out was propelled by Nell’s lists- was something I particularly enjoyed as a list lover myself. Other than that, I also really liked Nell’s narrative and related to how she worried about her future. Seeing her breaking out of her shell as she crossed off each item on her list was uplifting. As was watching her fall for Torres.
“He’s just confident. Comfortable. He fits everywhere with everyone.”
Reading All Played Out gave glimpse to another side of Mateo Torres that surprised me. The more serious side of him. I loved how Cora is able to find a balance in the book that we got to see how fun Teo was (which is to infinity) but also that there’s something more profound in him to be discovered. How he’s actually utterly sweet, how he can be a gentleman and knows when to be patient, how he sometimes plays the fool to hide his shattered heart. All those times I wish I could throw my arms around him but most especially when he revealed a list of his own during the last parts of the book. I teared up from the perfection and feels. ALL THE SWOON.
Another thing that I really liked seeing more of was the Rusk U party gang- the couples from the first two books- Carson and Dallas, Silas and Dylan- also, Stella, Ryan and Brookes! I loved that their group of friends is growing. I just adore the camaraderie and inside jokes between them. I was happy that they were easily taken with Nell and also happy for Nell for making new friends. I loved the chemistry between this cast of characters so much!
Speaking of chemistry, Nell and Teo had a perfect one. Again, it’s an opposites attract story, this time with a loud guy and a quiet girl, and it just worked so well! The romance that begins between the two is hottttt, yes with the extra t’s. More importantly, it’s so earnest. There’s no doubt the two belong together.
“It won’t matter so much whether every step was in the right direction because life is not a straight line. It will only matter that you took them. That you never let yourself stand still.”
All Played Out was yet again another excellent instalment for the Rusk University books. If you need a good laugh and lots of swooning, you really ought to meet Torres. And if you think you might relate to slightly awkward but trying to move out of her comfort zone Nell, then you definitely ought to read her story. Either way, check this book out!! Meanwhile, I will pine for All Closed Off.
[toggle title=”Click to Open”]I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid situations that might stir up that kind of reaction. When I was getting picked on in middle school, I found a teacher willing to let me eat lunch in her classroom during her off period. I didn’t really do much dating in high school, because the few times I tried, I couldn’t handle the stress of not knowing what would happen next. The mere possibility of embarrassing myself was always enough to make me run in the other direction. I didn’t take any chances. Not that kind at least. And now it seems as if my social life is not the only department where I’m playing catch-up.
Welcome to Humiliation. Population: Me.
Thankfully, I’m so miserable that the next few minutes only occur in bursts and patches for me. When I next lift my eyes, Dylan is there, and we’re inside the apartment. I blink, and I’m in my room. It’s dark, only the lamp by my bed providing light, and she’s dabbing at my forehead with a damp cloth that feels like heaven.
“Why did I do this?” I groan. “Why does anyone do this?” She doesn’t laugh, though I can tell she wants to.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty.”
“I hate that saying.”
“But it’s the truth.”
“I hate the truth.” She does laugh then.
“Why did you do it?” she asks. “I tried to ask Matt, but he sounds like a yeti when he’s this drunk. I couldn’t make out anything he said.”
“I hate yetis,” I mumble.
“Yes, well, before you say you hate water, drink this.”
She tilts my head up to meet a glass, and half the water ends up running down my neck. And I do, indeed, hate water.
The only thing I don’t hate is sleep. Sleep will take away the churning in my stomach, and the awful taste in my mouth, and the flushed heat I know is still marring my skin.
Maybe I’ll wake up, and this will all have been a dream. I won’t have thrown up in front of the people I’m trying to make my new friends. I wouldn’t have told the most attractive guy to ever show any interest in me that I’m a virgin.
Maybe I’ll wake up to find that this whole list thing was a long, elaborate dream, and I can go back to being blissfully weird and antisocial and …
Somewhere between one forced sip of water and the next, I must fall asleep, because I wake up after what feels like hours to the sound of my door closing. Probably just Dylan checking on me, but I’m struggling to find the motivation to move my head the six inches it will take to confirm this suspicion.
Eventually, my bed shifts, slanting to one side, and my head ends up turning of its own volition. I decide I’m dreaming when I see who’s seated beside me, because there’s no way Torres would be in my room after everything that just happened. I’m sure Dylan wouldn’t even let him in. I decide that this must be my subconscious, trying to give me one last good-bye, unreal though it may be.
“I brought you some food,” he says.
I groan. My dream can’t even do me the courtesy of giving me a pleasant last memory. Or is it normal to be drunk in your dreams when you’re drunk in real life?
He breaks the corner off a bread stick and holds it up to my lips. I don’t open.
“Trust me,” he says. “I know you’re tired and probably miserable, but this will help. And the more food and water we get into you now, the less you’ll hate yourself in the morning.”
“Already hate myself,” I say, but I take a bite of the bread stick he’s offering. It takes me forever to chew it, and when I’m done, he holds up another. Grudgingly, I eat it.
“That’s my girl.” And now I know it’s a dream.
He offers me water, and I take it, if only to wash down the bread.
“What happened to our deal?” he asks, and he sounds almost angry. “If you’d waited for me, I could’ve taken care of you. Made sure you didn’t drink too much.” Since it’s a dream, I don’t see the point in being dishonest.
“I don’t want you to help me with the list.”
“Why not?” Yeah. He’s definitely angry.
“Because I don’t want you to think I’m a loser.”
“Damn it. I think a lot of things about you, Nell. Some of them are certainly not nice, but trust me, they’re all complimentary.” I shake my head, too tired to pick out the meaning of his words. “You’re not a loser, Nell. And I’m going to help you with that list whether you like it or not. I didn’t like coming into your apartment and seeing you with that guy. I don’t like that he’s the one who you shared this first with. I want your firsts.”[/toggle]