Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

16059149In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

PUBLISHER: Simon and Shuster

PAGES: 336


I went to Powell’s during the past 3-day-weekend and limited myself to a book budget of $15. I happened to go over by one dollar, but, really, if you know me, it could have been much worse. Leaving $16 poorer is the best of all possible Powell’s scenarios. Truly.

I haven’t read a book set in the South for some while, and I’m always up for a good YA romance. Magnolia has been on my TBR for some time. While this plot was a bit too unrealistic for my tastes (two kids being left alone right before a gigantic storm? I don’t know about that), it was still a fun read. MORAL RATING:

PG-13: Frequent cuss words throughout and kissing


Cook’s novel is essentially a reversal of Romeo & Juliet, and a pretty cliché one at that. That being said, Magnolia is a sweet novel. Jemma and Ryder are realistic teens living in the South. I admired Jemma’s feisty spirit and I appreciated her attitude towards applying to film school. Few people know what they want to study in college, but Jemma knew what she wanted and she fought for it. Ryder played a huge part in this, and I appreciated that he was such an encouraging presence in her life. They both acted as motivators for the other and I thought that was cute.

There were so many times that I wanted to yell at Jemma, “Hey! You’re not interpreting things correctly!”. Bad communication and misjudgements accounted for most of the problems in this book.


I can appreciate when cuss words are used appropriately, but I felt like the cussing bordered on excessive in this novel. Jemma is a modern Southern belle whose sass and spirit were a highlight for me, but she cussed like a sailor at times. I didn’t feel like the cussing was necessary and justified.

Also, there wasn’t enough build-up or chemistry between Ryder and Jemma to explain the course of events in the novel. They’ve been family friends since childhood and have witnessed the good, the bad, and the awkward moments of each other’s lives. A bad high school dance leads to Jemma hating Ryder and vice versa. I’ve never felt like my life was in danger by a dangerous storm, so maybe I shouldn’t be talking. Perhaps deathly storms can increase the chemistry level between two characters, but I didn’t understand the sudden chemistry coursing between Jemma and Ryder. It made for a cute novel, but was too unrealistic for my personal tastes!

I didn’t have high expectations of this book when I bought it; I knew I was purchasing a fluffy teen romance with a twist. I knew what I was buying! This book lived up to–but didn’t exceed–my expectations.


I can see Vance Joy’s Georgia being Jemma and Ryder’s song in the future. Its calm, country vibes fit the Southern setting of this novel.


Overall, I’d give this one a 3.5/5 rating. It was sweet and fun, but there seemed to be something missing from the plot. The chemistry between Jemma and Ryder felt a bit too sudden and unrealistic. It is a mindless, enjoyable read, though, and I would recommend it to people that are in the mood to read some YA fluff.


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