Talkin’ Bout ~ Dear Ava

Happy Friday, everyone!! I hope you’ve all had a good week! It’s been a little crazy here. I mentioned not that long ago how bizarre it was the we had an earthquake. The first one ever for our area, but I slept through it. Well, yesterday evening none of us were sleeping when the 3rd one hit. Yes, the 3rd one…apparently we’d had a second one hit earlier in the day yesterday. None of us felt it, but people nearby did. It was only a 2.5. Yesterday evening was a 3.1, and we all felt it. Now I’ve got to check and see if we have earthquake coverage…something I never in my life thought I’d have to worry about. I used to say I’d never move to CA because I wouldn’t want to deal with the earthquakes – too scary…

Title: Dear Ava
Series: N/A
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

Release Date: February 1, 2020
Publisher: Indie
Genres: Contemporary Romance


WSJ bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills delivers a gripping enemies-to-lovers, secret admirer, high school romance.

The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world–until they destroyed me.

The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them.

Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer?

Knox, the scarred quarterback.
Dane, his twin brother.
Or Chance, the ex who dumped me. . .

Dear Ava,
Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea.
Wait. That’s stupid.
What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.

It’s been ten months since you were here, but I can’t forget you.
I’ve missed seeing you walk down the hall.
I’ve missed you cheering at my football games.
I’ve missed the smell of your hair.

And then everything fell apart the night of the kegger.

Don’t hate me because I’m a Shark.
I just want to make you mine.

Mature Content. Recommended for 18+.

Amazon | The Book DepositoryGoodreads

Let’s Talk

As per my usual lately, this will be more of a discussion post than a review, but check out the bottom for my unspoiled opinion.

**Spoiler Alert**

Dear Ava. Y’all this book just gripped me from the start and wouldn’t let me go. I read it late into the night, and then woke up super early thinking about it and had to immediately pick it back up despite having very little sleep.

Ava stole my heart from the very start in this book. I was just sick for her as she gradually awoke to realize she was the victim of rape. I wasn’t sure where the story would go from there, but her bravery and fighting spirit just had me cheering her on! Her self respect and fierce determination to take care of her brother, Tyler, were beyond admirable.

There were so many interesting elements to this story: the romance, the mystery, the occasionally suspense, the sibling aspects for both Ava and Knox, the trials of being completely alone, the struggles of dealing with having been raped, the poor girl in a rich world, Knox going after his best friend’s ex, Ava being responsible for her brother, Knox’s twin Dane dealing with depression, drug abuse, and mom who’d been raped herself, Knox not thinking he’s good (and the why behind it), mental illness, and the secret admirer aspect.

I noticed while creating this post that it’s marketed as an enemies-to-lovers. I get it, but I wouldn’t have labeled it as such myself. Ava definitely hates the group that Knox is a part of, but it’s made clear that Knox has a thing for Ava from the get go, and that Ava is quite attracted to him from the start, too. But, I didn’t even read the blurb prior to picking up the book. LOL! So, I didn’t have any disappointment there. And their relationship still went through a ton of hot and cold moments that really drew me in. Sometimes I don’t enjoy that in my book couples, but it so worked for me with Ava and Knox. I could so see the struggles Knox was going through with worrying about his brother and the fact that his best friend had been seeing Ava.

And all of that built to an awesome slow burn for them. Y’all, I’m not usually one to get all heated over a kiss in a book, but that first kiss when they both finally gave in was just awesome!

I also noticed this was labeled a secret admirer romance, and that was an aspect to the story, but it was underwhelming for me as far as it pertained to the romance portion of the story. It seemed to play such a small role. I only recall one letter left for her and then two texting conversations that happened as part of that element. I think I would have liked to see that element play out a little more – maybe a few more random notes left in her locker to add intrigue to that element of the story.

I did find it interesting, though, that it was Knox who had written the letter and texted with her. It did add a bit of intrigue to the mystery of discovering who raped her. I wasn’t sure if Knox was the one who wrote it in the beginning, or if it was the rapist, maybe Dane, or even Chance (her ex). Side note here: Chance got a bit on my nerves, so I could never feel bad about Knox going after Ava. First, the way Chance treated Ava before she was raped, then the way he acted at the party where she was raped, and then to have left the party with Brooklyn, and finally to be dating Brooklyn while he’s trying to profess his love to Ava. Yeah, no! So, yes, this had the element of Knox going after his best friend’s ex, an ex Chance was supposedly in love with, but I just didn’t care.

I did find myself wishing there had been more to the Chance and Knox storyline, though. I didn’t feel like I had a grasp on their relationship. I found myself shocked there in the climax when Knox showed up at Chance’s door looking for help.

The mystery aspect of the story was intriguing throughout. I made a note at 42% that I thought Liam had done it and bragged to Dane, Dane went to pick her up, and didn’t remember because he was so high. Well, I definitely got pretty close with my guess. But, I was never sure about it. There was always enough to keep me wondering.

Now I want to talk a second on Dane and Knox. I felt so much dread when Dane didn’t show up to school. That whole scene with Knox finding Dane broken in the shower just gutted me. My heart hurt so bad for him. His character was such a contrast to Knox and Ava. It was such a clear picture of how mental health can play such a big role in how people react to their circumstances. I loved watching Knox and Dane both be there for each other. And the struggle for Knox in being there for both Ava and Dane was done so well, and I loved how he dealt with it all the way through. I never felt like he neglected Ava for his brother or his brother for Ava. Learning their mother’s story was heartbreaking, and then knowing how she had been the cause of Knox’s scar and what she said about him being ugly – again I was just gutted. Mental illness is no joke! Another side note here: despite all of the heavy, I so appreciated that this book didn’t feel heavy and dark. It had its moments, but I always felt like hope was winning out.

I also want to say that I absolutely loved that neither Dane nor Knox (or even their father) was willing to swipe the whole rape situation under the rug. They held all the evidence in their hands, and even though they knew Liam was going to try to pin stuff on Dane, they never considered not doing the right thing for Ava.

And I can’t forget Wyatt here! I loved how he was so there for Ava as she was dealing with everything! He just threw himself into Ava’s life head first from day one showing so much support for her. I wouldn’t have minded more scenes with Ava and Wyatt.

And the conclusion! Swoon! I loved that Ava leaving was right for everyone in the situation. I normally HATE when couples are split up for a period of time, but it was so right for this situation. And I loved how they were both so committed to each other throughout the entire separation. And then when he finally shows up at Vandy. *Sigh* The way they couldn’t take their eyes off each other and were so thirsty for every scrap of knowledge to fill in the gaps. And Knox’s desire to make sure Ava knew he’d considered Tyler through all of it! I definitely had some water-filled eyes reading this book!

And then that epilogue! I am always a sucker for a man that steps up into the role of father when the man who should have didn’t. And the role Knox’s dad plays in the story and conclusion…it was so good seeing him step up!

Spoiler Free

So, I don’t think I’ve ever had that much to say about a book! LOL! And there was still so much that I didn’t even touch on! I absolutely loved this book. It had me hook, line, and sinker from the very start. Ava’s strength after being raped, and having so little support was inspiring. Knox and Ava’s romance was slow burn deliciousness. The siblings aspects for both Knox and Ava added so much depth to the story. There were so many themes explored in this book, and mental health plays a big role. And there was the mystery aspect of trying to discover who the rapist was. And despite the book being full of so many dark things, it didn’t feel like a dark book. There were a couple moments of angst, but it felt light, full of hope, throughout most of it. Ava and Knox both have my heart! This book earned all the stars from me!

*Please check out trigger warnings elsewhere if you have triggers. I tend to overlook adding them in my reviews.*


I absolutely love when a book can handle heavy topics in a way that doesn’t leave me just feeling sick. I want to feel all the emotions, but I want to live in the light! Have a book in mind for me??

Happy Reading,


5 thoughts on “Talkin’ Bout ~ Dear Ava

  1. Okay, I’m definitely curious now. I’m still reading my first Madden-Mills book but I’m enjoying it so I’m looking forward to trying more of her stuff. I did skip the spoiler-y part but even the non-spoiler part has me curious enough to want to check this one out soon! Sounds heavy but I get the impression that the author tackles the mental health issues well? Glad you enjoyed it so much 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did appreciate how all of the mental health issues were handled. And yes, this has a lot of heavy, but it’s handled in a way that you’re not left feeling too much angst and instead feeling hopeful. Which Madden-Mills book are you reading now?


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