ALL PLAYED OUT is a New Adult Contemporary Romance and is the 3rd book in the Rusk University Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
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.
Remember the Ana’s line, when she walked inside Mr. Grey’s office? “Raising the ordinary to extraordinary.” That’s what Cora does. Every. Single. Time.
I’m not sure if it has happened to me before, but I identified myself with both Matteo and Nell. This is probably what I loved the most in this novel. You see, I have been that Nell; the girl who focus on school and nothing more, even the one who is getting called a nerd. But I also have ridiculously high expectations from myself and I do feel sometimes that what I do, who I am is not enough, like Matteo does. Cora gave us both POVs in this novel and it is EXCEPTIONAL! We not only intrude in both minds, but we also become one with them. We understand them, we feel for them. Cora’s writing was brilliant, like always, and I felt I was one with the book. I felt my heart splitting into two equal parts; a Nell and a Matteo part.
Cora, not only dragged me into her story, but she made me feel like I was a part of it!
The way she wrote her characters and the way they evolved throughout the book made this novel stand out to my eyes. It’s not a typical shy-girl-meets-sexy-athlete-in-college story. It has depth and meaning, as well as purity that is unprecedented in College novels. Everything is so much more in this story!
Nell is not an ordinary smart, shy girl. She may not be so social, but she isn’t exactly shy either. She speaks her mind and is confident. She may be hurting but she keeps going. She is full of contradictions and she made me love her very much. So, *coughs* Cora, I would really love a sequel to this one!
Matteo is not your typical handsome, charming player. He has his reasons for acting the way he does. He is loyal, faithful, patient and confident; yet, he’s also unsure, sensitive and makes mistakes and assumptions. But he learns from his mistakes and he becomes a stronger person.
Like I said earlier, I loved many things about this book. But the most significant attribute it has is how effortless you become a character in it. I felt like I was right there with Nell and Matteo. I felt what they felt. I even think like them in most cases. The level of familiarity between me and the characters is unparallelled.
This novel will stay with me; I can already sense it. I finished it 2 days ago, and as I think about the story, the characters and Cora’s writing now that I write the review, I fall in love with it all over again.
So, yes, without a doubt..
All Played Out receives 5 Amazing Stars, because I haven’t felt so closed to the characters in my life.
Cora, you just added another amazing novel in your career! Well done!
“I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I’ve gone crazy. You’ve made me crazy.”
Torres’s hand lingers at my waist for a long moment before he does what he’s supposed to and helps boost me up onto the base of the Rusk statue that we talked about at breakfast a few days ago. The base alone comes about as high as my chest, and I never could have gotten up without him. Or a ladder. The statue’s pose is reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial, with Rusk sitting down, only his hand is open and stretched out, and that’s where I’m heading. If I can manage to climb all the way up without falling and breaking my neck. When Texas was an independent republic, Rusk served first as secretary of war and later the Supreme Court chief justice. And when Texas became a state he was elected as one of its first senators.
And now I’m honoring his memory by doing my best to climb up into his lap like he’s some giant bronze Santa Claus. I step up on his foot and try to haul myself up onto his knee, but I have a pitiful amount of upper-body strength. As in … basically none. I jump, hoping that might help, but I only end up clutching ridiculously at the knee, unable to pull myself up but too afraid to let myself drop for fear that I might twist my ankle landing on the statue’s foot.
“I’ve got you, sweetheart,” Torres says, having hopped up behind me with zero assistance. Then his hands are on my ass, and he’s pushing me up onto the knee.
“Did you suggest we do this just so you could grope me?” I call down to him.
Carefully, I climb to my feet, holding on to Rusk’s outstretched arm to keep me steady. Then, after one deep breath, I scramble my way onto his large bronze arm and shimmy my way down into his hand. I sit in his palm, and have to hang one leg over each side. My thighs are a bit too large to fit comfortably, so I feel like I’m wedged into his hand. And one look down at Torres’s grinning face tells me what an idiot I am.
I’m straddling the statue’s hand.
And while it’s holding my weight just fine, there’s no way I don’t look ludicrous. And probably a little lewd.
“Most people don’t actually sit in his hand, do they?”
“It’s the knee for most people, true.”
“What? I figured go big or go home. Besides … it’s pretty fucking hot.”
“I’m going to kill you as soon as I get down from here.” I start trying to shift myself out of the hand, but my butt really is entirely too large for this thing.
“No! Wait,” he says. “Let me jump down and get a picture. You’re up there already. Might as well make the most of it.”
I try to scowl at him. But it is pretty funny when you think of it. And it will make a good picture. When my brother and I were growing up, Leo’s room had been covered in stuff like this. Photos with friends. He had a big stop sign on his wall that he and his friends had stolen God only knows how. He had souvenirs from places they’d been and things they’d done. Nothing crazy because we weren’t quite well off enough to travel or anything. But little things that meant something to him even if they didn’t matter to anyone else.
I had trophies. Medals. Certificates. Those were my memories. But no one takes those kinds of things to college with them. You’re supposed to pack them away in boxes because as soon as you graduate, they don’t really matter anymore.
But now… I have this.
While Torres descends, I look out at campus. It’s dark, but there are streetlamps dotting the sidewalk. Noble Library is a few blocks over, and is still open, but otherwise the university seems abandoned. The statue is in the middle of a grassy courtyard, surrounded by old oaks trees that have probably been growing since the university was founded back in the late 1800s.
It’s peaceful and beautiful, and it occurs to me that I’ve never just sat somewhere on campus and looked. There’s always been somewhere to go or something to do, and I’ve never taken the time. I lean back on my hands and breathe in the night, and when Torres calls for me to look at him, my smile is wide and genuine.
“Come on! Get crazy,” he says.
I throw my hands up and smile even bigger. He laughs and snaps another picture on his phone.
“You’re a real wild one, Antonella De Luca.”
Then something occurs to me, and my stomach tumbles with nerves and a surprising feeling of exhilaration. Can I check two things off my list with this late-night adventure? Can I actually be a little wild for a change? I think about Torres’s words. You’re up there already. Might as well make the most of it. I take a deep breath, shift to sit on my knees, and wait for Torres to slip his phone back in his pocket.
Then I call, “Hey, Mateo!”
When he looks up, his eyes questioning, I gather my courage and the hem of my shirt and lift it up for one, two, three seconds. Then I tug it back down, keeping my eyes squeezed shut because I’m too scared to see his face.
And don’t miss the first two books in the Rusk University Series…
ALL LINED UP, Book 1
ALL BROKE DOWN, Book 2
About Cora Carmack:
Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.