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Winner Take All

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For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.
For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.
They both have everything to lose.

Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.

Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?

Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.

330 pages, Hardcover

First published January 30, 2018

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 258 reviews
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
259 reviews4,897 followers
May 2, 2018
. Oy. Ok. I have a lot of thoughts. And I'm sorry, I hate writing ranty reviews, and I always want to be nice and considerate even in my negative ones. A lot of people will honestly enjoy this book very much, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, probably because of the life I've lived. So maybe its just me.

Before I go any further, I want to leave some disclaimers so you know what to expect. I'm not saying I disagree with the author throwing these heavy topics in the book, because I think it's important to show real life issues, but I'm going to point them out. There's A LOT of sex. Not in detail, but the very topic is woven heavily throughout the pages. Heavy teen drinking. Possible pregnancy. Anxiety + mental issues + depression. Family issues / cheating. (Thankfully, the author put links in the back for anyone suffering from some of those issues. I really appreciated that).

Anyway, I was SO excited as I was reading the first 30% of this book. It seemed like a fun, angsty, hate-to-love. I'm not the type of person who reads a lot of contemporary - I like to stick to fantasy. But I make an exception sometimes for a really fun hate-to-love story full of crazy drama and blah blah. I really thought that's what I was going to get here. And trust me, that's certainly the theme, but I was left with a sour taste. More on this in a minute.

I will say this- there are some fun bits to the story, sure. It was addicting and difficult to put down. I certainly felt like I was in Nell's head. And the plot twist with Jackson really threw me - I should have seen it coming but I didn't.


I get that men and women are not held to the same standards a lot of the time. I know that women often have to apologize for things that men don't. I know this book meant to challenge that. I know the author wanted to show a flawed heroine and challenge the whole idea of men getting away with crap girls can't.

But the heroine hardly had ANY redeeming qualities. No, I wouldn't brush aside a male character that was this mean either, so don't even go there. I just had a very hard time with this book because it was all just nasty behavior after nasty behavior, with very few lessons learned (or at least, the whole 'realization of wrongdoing' part was muddy at best. Of course, that's just my opinion. I'm not trying to be hurtful, and maybe this will speak to other people, but it just made me angry. Nell never thought more than a second about anyone but herself and how to one-up EVERYONE. She treated her friends horribly, and yes there were end apologies, but it wasn't enough for me. I kept trying to search for *some* semblance of compassion in her, but I found none. Her only redeeming quality was that she was a hard worker. But so are a million other people.

And then there was the whole mess with a middle-class girl competing against upper-class rich kids. Yeah, I get that. I was the poor girl (and I mean ACTUALLY poor... as in our family lived off the church pantry donated food and wore clothes from the goodwill one dollar rack that never fit. We were kicked from home to home. And, I went to school with insanely wealthy kids. I know what its like to be made fun of for not wearing brand named clothes, or to be told you're too skinny and you need to eat - when you'd give anything for that lunch money.) I'm sorry, but I didn't feel bad one bit for Nell's sob story over how the rich kids would get anything they wanted and she had to work for it. This was a giant Nell pity party + revenge book.

Let me tell you - she didn't have nothing, but by the way she acted, you would think she did. She didn't have to worry about if she had enough money to eat lunch. She had a home that had air conditioning and heat. She was able to participate in physical activities. She had rich friends who actually genuinely loved her.

She had SO MUCH PRIVILEGE. So much.

And her relationship with Jackson? My gosh. She gave him so much shit about not opening up, but when he finally bears his heart to her, she literally BITCHES AT HIM FOR IT lol. Like... girl.... come on. I don't know what Jackson saw in her. Sure, he did some messed up stuff, and maybe this is just my opinion, but she was way worse. Maybe I missed something or misinterpreted something. Idk.

Yes, girls and boys should be held to the same standard. But I don't have to like Nell. She was just plain mean. If she were a boy, I would feel the same way. I like my fair share of problematic guys and problematic, flawed heroines. I'll admit that. But I found that I could at least relate to them in some way, or feel for them. I just didn't feel for Nell.

Anyway, lol, like I said, I think a lot of people will like this book. I don't regret reading it and there were some really fun parts and great lines, but blah. I am just mentally exhausted. And a bit angry.

My Blog ~ Instagram ~ Twitter ~ Etsy
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
February 25, 2018
I am a mega sucker for this kind of YA plot - a prep school, a girl and a boy are in throws of a fight for academic supremacy, the guy is popular and rich, the girl is high-strung and scrappy. Sparks fly, right? Only can she believe him? She is not stupid to think he finds her to be SO SPECIAL from the other girls he’s dated. Or is this some kind of sick game? And if it is, who is going to win it?

A lot of this book worked for me, especially the MC clear-headedness about how this whole scenario is basically a fantasy. The secrets and the family dynamics are stellar. The points about sexism and privilege and over-achieving are important, although delivered often too bluntly. But then, it’s a messily written novel that would have been so much better after a few more rounds of editing. I felt like Nell and Jackson walked in circles a lot, having the same kinds of conversation and fights. Too bad, because it’s a compelling romance scenario that worked in this YA book better than in a multitude of adult romances I keep trying to enjoy.
Profile Image for Laurie.
Author 6 books160 followers
August 27, 2017
you're probably going to read this book and wonder what's wrong with me and the truth is, I do not know
Profile Image for Biz.
222 reviews102 followers
April 11, 2018
Y’all this book was a…… a real mess. I’m trying not to get mad at it but you know what?? I was actually excited to read this and it turned out to be actual crap bag full of white feminism and victim-blaming and a metaphorical landfill. Screw this.

I feel completely cheated. There is 1 (one) redeeming quality in this book and that is Nell’s character arc but you know what? It doesn’t even really begin until the book is about 75% over, and then it just seemed rushed and by that point I was just extremely capital-D Done, anyway. I feel like I wasted four days of my life reading this, all because I wanted to finish it to see if the problematic issues in it were resolved (haha they weren’t).

Listen,, for a book that was supposed to shoot down slutshaming and be super empowering, there was a surprising amount of girl hate hidden in between the pages.
”Boys get to have it all. Girls are either sluts or saints.”
Interesting, Nell, since you spend the ENTIRE NOVEL slutshaming girls and blaming the victims of unhealthy/abusive marriages.

Let’s start with slutshaming and the “I’m not like other girls” mentality. There’s a scene at the beginning of the novel where Nell and her friends are going to a party, and Nell describes her outfit for the night like this:
”I have on a tasteful sundress and a headband holding my auburn hair in place, understated, unlike what some of the other girls showed up in.”
Like,,, dude,,,, why?? Why are you hating on girls just so casually?? This ain't challenged, either!! Side note: I swear the word auburn is used to describe Nell’s hair like ten times throughout the novel and there are literally no other adjectives used to describe it and I’m just like ok we get it your hair is flippin auburn and it's integral to your personality lol. And then Nell goes on to talk about this girl Tristan.
”I know Tristan Kaye, but not well. She’s the kind of girl who comes with a reputation and a hell of a lot of baggage. [sic] Mostly I know that Tristan Kaye is not the kind of girl I’d ever want to be.”
And before people come at me saying “but wait!! Nell changed!!” I know Nell’s opinion of TRISTAN changed, but the smack that Nell and her mother talk about “other girls” in general does not. Nell is entirely condescending (calling a girl saying she prefers Jane Austen’s novel “trite” in a sarcastic way), shames another girl for making out with Jackson (not resolved), and straight up victim blames Jackson’s mother for staying in an abusive relationship. In fact, the rushed resolution of this novel caused for me to not see much of Nell’s personal growth at all.

Okay. Listen. The victim-blaming that takes place in this novel is entirely non-subtle and I’m surprised that no one else has called it out yet. When Jackson opens up to Nell about his father emotionally abusing and cheating on Jackson’s mom, thiS IS NELL’S FREAKING REPLY AND IT MAKES ME SO VERY ANGRY THAT THIS CRAP EXISTS I LITERALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND:
”’She allows herself to be disrespected by some, some’—I search around as if for a word bad enough, and then one comes to me, as if from the sky—‘dickhead. And that’s why she gets treated like s**t.’”
I mean, you’re kidding me, right? This isn’t real. Lol I wanted to stop reading right then and there but you know what!! I didn’t! Silly me, I thought that this would be an aspect of Nell’s character development, but this issue is literally never resolved. You don’t have the privilege of calling yourself a feminist book if you are going to spout crap like this. Fun fact: a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship isn’t “allowing” themselves to be “disrespected.” In what world is it Jackson’s mom’s fault that her husband is cheating on her? Why is it on her to fix this?? I’m seriously so angry right now that I can barely string my words into coherent thoughts. Like, people legitimately still say crap like this?? I wouldn't be mad if this had been a part of Nell’s character arc but it’s not. It’s literally never mentioned again. I’m so pissed.

Another thing that really ticked me off about this whole thing was just how incredible white and straight this novel was. The entire book, Nell’s ENTIRE narrative, revolves around the fact that everyone treats Nell differently because she is middle class and a girl. I was getting so freaking tired of hearing Nell whine all the time, and you wanna know why? a) she’s white, b) she’s straight and cis, c) she is going to a private school and pretty much KNOWS that she is going to get a volleyball scholarship to a good school, d) her family isn’t poor. They’re upper-middle class. They just live in a super upper class town so Nell thinks they’re poor. This was like when you hear about those studies where the 1% think that the average American family makes 200k a year. You know how we all thought that that was entirely fake and the rich people are idiots? Nell and her folks are that supposedly average American family.

And yet the novel makes Nell’s external struggle to be so much more than it actually is. The book only very briefly acknowledges racism. In one instance, when someone in Jackson’s friend group gets hurt while they are all doing something stupid, Jackson acknowledges his privilege and tells their friend Columbus that he’ll take the fall for him because ”’Columbus’s mom is the district solicitor, and he’s a black athlete from a rich family. If the cops find him, he’s f*****g done for. Get the hell out of here.’” In another instance, Nell’s friend Michonne calls Nell out for her BS by saying, ”’You think you’re the only one at this school who has to protect herself? Me—I’m not straight. I’m not white. Money doesn’t fix everything.’”. However, these are literally the only two instances where the book acknowledges white privilege. Michonne and Columbus are the only two characters of color inside the entire novel, and have about 20 minutes of combined screen time, tops.

The writing wasn’t that good either. This book implied nothing. Whenever someone was saying something sarcastic, the exposition popped in with in case you couldn’t tell, this is sarcasm. I meant the opposite of what I said. Like,,, I know, okay, I wasn’t born yesterday.
”She’d been latched onto Jackson like a parasite for the past three months. ‘Can’t believe that didn’t work out,’ I say, like I absolutely can believe that.”
”Jackson laughs at that, and I watch the lines of his face, the way he doesn’t think it’s funny at all.”

So bottom line is, don’t waste your time on this book. I feel cheated. I want those four days of my life back. It wasn’t worth it.
Profile Image for Tara ☽.
304 reviews251 followers
September 19, 2020
the couple in this book is a perfect example of two characters who need to be kept literally a country apart from each other

there's flawed protagonists and then there's completely unredeemable terrible people who treat others like shit under the guise of white commercial feminism and ya know what i ain't here for it
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
815 reviews154 followers
April 28, 2018
This book has many elements that actually crave in YA contemporary books so I should’ve love it. But I did not. I liked it but I did not lose myself in it. I’m really sad about because I thought this will be a new favorite of mine so yeah that sucked but what can I say, we don’t always get what we want.

But I digress.

So our two main characters, Nell Becker and Jackson Hart hate each other guts and they don’t shy away from telling the world how they real feel about each other. Nell is a competitive girl that yearns to be the best at everything she does but no matter how hard she works, Jackson is one step ahead of her which makes her lose her mind and hate more with every passing day.

Don’t care. Don’t show emotion. Stay on top.

Jackson on the other hand lives for the chance to of riling Nell and beating her. They are a match made in hell and when they fall in a whirlwind romance, their feelings will be tested.

So I can see this book being a popular choice for readers who are fan of enemies to lovers trope and if you really into that then I’ll recommend this book for you because it doesn’t get any better than this. I, myself love the trope and tend to lean about romances that explore it a very intriguing way but with this one something kept me from loving it bit I’ll explain that in more details later because I’d like to start with the positive things about the story.

First of all, I’d like to say that I really loved how the title and the cover were 100% accurate with the story and the dynamic between the characters so that was cool.

What I loved about the book was how it was not all about romance even though that was the main plot but it also explored a lot of important themes like toxic relationships and how hard it is to balance our intense feelings between love and obsession, competitive behaviors that makes us strive for unrealistic goals and how that the parental pressure and the yearning to be perfect can turn teenagers into obsessive beings that are willing to hate the people they care about so they can win.

Be smart but not too smart. Be a leader but step aside. Be an athlete but never look too strong.’ It isn’t all about the trial. It’s about playing a part, and I’m tired of it

To be honest, I haven’t read a lot of books that explored the themes within this book so that was something that I really appreciated and the balance between the love story and everything else going on with the two main characters and their relationships with their parents were executed well and made me understand a little bit the characters motivations.

But there’s a reason I didn’t this book more than three stars and that reason was the nasty things the two main characters did to each other and how toxic they were. I mean some of the things they did made me speechless, I mean these two really need a bloody intervention because they have zero common sense. So they are nasty t each other , I mean that’s something to expect from them, after all they are living in this toxic unhealthy love/hate relationship but what I did not expect was how nasty they were to their friends, especially Nell. She was selfish, self-centered and all she cared about was winning. She was hurting her friends and using them to hurt Jackson and she is so entitled that she is just did see how this could make them feel, like something to be used in a game when they are just innocent bystanders. Jackson did some nasty stuff but I think Nell was the worst of the two.

Betrayal is a curious thing. Because it’s so much more than one moment of stabbing pain—it’s like losing your truth, your guiding principle, your self.

I guess it was so much for me with all the lies and the fights and obsessive behaviors that I felt like I was reading something fake. The story just left a bad taste in my mouth but like I said the themes the story explored are really important so I couldn’t hate the book. All I can conclude with is that it wasn’t a good reading experience but the book will still appeal to a lot of readers. For now I’ll leave with this quote that I really loved.

You know what’s funny about the end of something? You don’t realize how much that something took from you, and how much you gain back when it’s gone.

note: I initially rated this book 2 stars but after thinking about it for a while, I upped my rating to three stars

Profile Image for mich.
650 reviews233 followers
August 26, 2020
"I've been chasing after boys like Jackson Hart at this school for so long. Girls like me have. And this time, we'll all win."

"You sure it's not just you?"

I swallow. "It'll be me first."

Prep school setting, a rivalry between a girl and a boy. The boy is smart, rich, privileged, and uh, promiscuous. The girl is smart, less rich, somewhat less privileged, and ambitious.

I loved this. Not going the full 5 stars cuz the melodrama was a bit too much at times , but still - I thought this was really good.

(Btw I think that blurb gives away WAY too much. I mean, seriously, too much! I'm glad I didn't read it before I read the book. It was cool not knowing exactly where things were going.)

The main characters were very unlikable. I kinda loved that, as much as I kinda hated it.

Both of them do really, really shitty things. I'm curious though, if you will find yourself having a harder time forgiving one of them more than the other? Will you think what one of them did was way worse than what the other did? And if so, why?

This is mature YA (it's got the sex yo) and all in all I just really love books like this. I am 2 for 2 with this author and I wish she had more than 2 books published.
Profile Image for Miriam.
126 reviews50 followers
May 20, 2018
3.5 stars!

Since I am a sucker for that "high-achieving rivals first hate each other but then develop feelings for each other-thing" I decided to give Winner Take all a chance, despite its not so good rating here on Goodreads. I must say that this book did totally surprise me in many ways.

The story starts really quick and I felt myself being drawn into the setting and the plot. I was hooked from the beginning and barely able to put the book down for about the first half. I'm not saying the story was super-exciting or suspenseful, just your average contemporary book with interesting developments. But the important topics it dealt with were a pleasant surprise. The main character Nell grew up as the only child of a middle-class family in an environment that stresses traits as wealth, skin colour and reputation above anything else. Despite her background, she finally managed to get a place at a well-respected prep school and started her rise to the top of class rankings. Using Nell as an example, the author lays out how society still makes it so much easier for rich, white boys to succeed in life. In addition, the book deals with racism and slut-shaming in a good way by laying its finger on the different consequences the same behavior can have for different people.
Towards the eding, it felt like Nell and Jackson faced the ame problems again and again without really making a progress and that started getting on me.

Said characters were developed interestingly and drawn with care, though. Jackson seems to be the average rich white boy who seems to have everything in life, not because he worked hard for it, but because he was born with certain privileges. Feeling superior to almost everyone else, he treated people and especially girls in a way that made me cringe.
Nell is someting entirely else. At the beginning od the book, I thought she was a true idol when it comes to topics as fighting against traditonal rules and to rise to the top, wanting more than other people would expect you to deserve. In addition, she did not wait for the boy to make the first step and was mature enough to tell and show what she wanted. But everything started to go downhill towards the end of the book. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that she is not actually a good person. She makes horrible choices and I eventually got really angry because of her.
In her acknowledgements, the author states that she sometimes jokes that this book is really about two terrible people who fall in love. I agree with her on that.

The writing was good in a flowing way that made me fly through the pages. I still have a drop of bitterness to add: Sometimes in passages with a lot of direct speech, I was unable to tell who was talking at the moment and had to wait for a clue to figure it out and then go back again and reread the whole passage. This might not disturb every reader, but I found it a bit frustrating.

To sum it up, I would recommend this book to contemporary-lovers who enjoy reading about serious topics and can stand reading aboutterrible people.
Profile Image for Jane (It'sJaneLindsey).
446 reviews516 followers
January 30, 2018
Upgrading this to 4.5 stars.

WOW. This blew my mind and was pretty messed up, not gonna lie. But it was also amazing and made so many brilliant points about being a girl, and power dynamics, and basically this was such a fierce surprise of a book.
February 1, 2018
I received a free e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. All views are of my own.

I have no idea what I just read.

I hate writing negative reviews. I hate being negative in general. But this was one of those books I just wanted to stop reading and throw out the window but couldn’t because it was an e-arc from NetGalley and I had in my phone.

The story starts with Nell Becker being appalled by how Jackson Hart, the rich popular playboy, gets away with spewing rubbish in an English class while the teacher actually hangs on to his every word. In her words, boys can get away with everything and will always have the upper hand no matter what they do while girls have to answer for all things. She wants to break that trend, come first in rankings and show the world that girls can be smart too.
At least I think that’s what was happening.

I just couldn’t see anything past Nell. Nell Brecker is one of the worst characters I’ve ever read about. She is selfish, self absorbed and literally hates everybody. Yes, everybody. She is completely negative, doesn’t give a sh*t about anybody, not even her best friend. I get it. I think I do. The writer wanted innumerous flaws to be an aspect of hers, something that she could overcome in the end and give this story a happily ever after ending. Blah Blah Blah. But God, I hated her. Her constant hatred towards the rich people was so pointless. Her mom was the principal, she had a house to live under and food to eat and never in any part did I see somebody give a damn about her social status but did that stop her from complaining? No.

“You’re dark somewhere deep down in there, Becker. Like the hidden parts of the ocean. You’re not sure what’s lurking beneath the surface and you’re not sure if you want to find out.”

Yeah, if this is her just on the surface, I really don’t want to find out what’s deep inside.

She’s constantly slut shaming and disparaging girls, thinking she’s better than them. Although she doesn’t say it out loud, she makes it seem that it is okay to behave and think like this because they’re all rich and privileged and she’s not.

Not to mention, her complete lack of empathy just made me cringe. There was a part in the story, where Jackson wants to talk some heart-to-heart with her and instead of trying to be a little understanding; she makes him feel like crap. When talking about Jackson's mother and her abusive relationship, Nell says,

‘She allows herself to be disrespected by some, some’—I search around as if for a word bad enough, and then one comes to me, as if from the sky—‘dickhead. And that’s why she gets treated like sh*t.’

Yes people, this even has victim blaming in it. I was really shocked to see that the writer had put these words together and I was so not okay with it. And before you say something else, I know Nell is supposed to be flawed. And while it is so much easier to connect with and amazing to read about flawed protagonists, it gets super annoying when you throw every imperfection in her way.

Last but not the least; let’s talk about the love story. Yes, the angst hate-to-love plot that made me tap on the request button faster than Usain Bolt on a marathon.

I did not hate it. I strongly disliked it.

“Like, I’d always heard about people completing each other, but you and me, we were more like a match and a stick of dynamite.”

Perfect way to sum up their relationship. There was no substance to it. They just hated each other, got together somehow, had a lot of sex (A LOT, trust me) and then realized how nasty and cruel the other was and got back to hating each other. The whole thing was completely toxic. It was just one repulsive activity after another. It got so dark and twisted in the end that I felt completely sick and wanted to put it down. I even lost track of who was nastier and didn’t give a damn.

So if you didn’t get it yet, let me just rephrase my whole review into one line; Give me my time back!
Profile Image for Jess (BookObsessedJess).
183 reviews28 followers
January 30, 2018
I know this took way longer than it should have for me to read this book. In my defense, I hit a high drama point and was experiencing a lot of anxiety in my personal life, so I had to put it on hold and try to become more sane before I picked it up again.

Winner Take All follows the relationship and rivalry between Jackson Hart and Nell Becker. Both of them are driven and determined to win at life...at whatever cost. When they become involved in a romantic relationship, it consumes every fiber of their being. AND IT IS DELIGHTFUL...and DANGEROUS.

Actual footage of Nell and Jackson

A secret is exposed that tears them apart. Then more secrets and lies build up to a crescendo of chaos. Fortunately, both Jackson and Nell have friends who are 100% honest and 1000% done with their nonsense. They call them out when they are being self-destructive and just...generally destructive (cause they involve other people SMH).

I live for books that actually show consequences to dangerous actions.


Side Point: THANK YOU for representing anxiety and depression and low self worth in an honest, unfiltered way.

If you loved The DUFF, you will LOVE this. Yes, there are some stressful points, BUT it's worth it in the end.

Thank you to the publishers and those over at NetGalley for giving me an eARC of this book.
Profile Image for DJ .
1,007 reviews7 followers
August 13, 2018
Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not even sure where to start. Reading this book was a chore, an absolute dreadful chore.
I'm sure there are people who will adore this book but unfortunately I was not one of them. These characters are awful, they are the worst type of people. They had ZERO redeeming qualities. We are suppose to feel sorry for Nell because she's a scholarship kid in a prep school. It was impossible for me to sympathize with her at all, she was a rude moralist. Jackson wasn't any better. He played games and toyed with people. It was awful. I was hoping this would be a fun snarky love-hate relationship but I was sorely mistaken. This relationship was on the verge of being volatile. I hoped it would get better but it doesn't. Unfortunately for me this whole book was a miss.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
March 27, 2018
The deeply flawed, competitive, and downright unlikable characters were great. I loved the hate-to-love romance. I'm not a big romance person, but that fire between Nell and Jackson was excellent.

But the story itself was too long, without much interesting happening. I may have found it more compelling were it not rich white kids in a prep school full of mostly rich white kids. The message about girls can have it all via Nell didn't really come through because of that. Also? All of the shitty parents felt like a distraction away from that very problem of the setting.
Profile Image for Tissy.
217 reviews
September 19, 2018
Completely dramatic and angsty but written so well. Every character aside from the dads (but who cares) was interesting but the MC was the most captivating and not because she was likeable. Far from it. As the author said, she wanted a character who was messy and flawed and the MC most definitely is but she’s also real. And damn tough. Thoroughly enjoyable, I’m surprised at the low rating because the writing is impeccable imo. The whole book reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s characters which are all strong (not just physically) complex females. It also adds to the meagre list of books that portray women/girls in all their ‘complicated’ and gritty glory. We don’t always have to be timid and amiable and we certainly don’t always need saving!
Profile Image for Mare SLiTsReaD Reviews.
1,135 reviews68 followers
February 4, 2018
Sometimes I read books and can’t help but make playlists to go with them. Sometimes I read epic books and sometimes they are just… ok.

This book is my 1st 5 star of 2018.

This book was soooo fucked yo!

This book was all this….


Yellow diamonds in the light
I was standing side by side
As your shadow crosses mine
What it takes to come alive



It’s the way I’m feeling,
I just can’t deny
But I’ve gotta let it go


I could do this review in all Rihanna Gifs but I won’t. If you want to full effect of how the book will make you feel watch the video on YouTube.

This is not your typical YA love story. This was cutting, sharp, toxic and unputdownable. This broached a lot of different issues, from anxiety, to drugs to drinking to self sabotage. Throughout the whole book I didn’t know whether I liked the MCs, if I liked the secondary characters, if I liked anyone at all.

BUT! Laurie Devore wrote this book so freaking good that I just did not want to stop reading and “We Found Love” was on a constant repeat in my head because that toxic burn of knowing something isn’t good or right for you and wanting it anyway?


As a mom of a teen I pray to God my daughter does not have this kind of savage drive to best someone. But she is my mini me so I can’t guarantee that won’t happen. But not anywhere close to Nell.

And my worst nightmare is being like Nell’s mom. Or making my daughter feel like how Nell felt. I don’t want perfection, I just want someone who knows right and wrong, left from right, north to south. I don’t want my mini me to ever feel like she has to slip some pills or worry about the boy she’s dating cause I would hate him. I mean I might right? God lets pray that doesn’t happen LOL. But not because he’s a rich privileged white kid. He was born into that.

I won’t try to make her decisions for her though.

As a mom I don’t want a toxic relationship for my kids. But as a mom who was a teen I know all about toxic love and maybe just maybe this is why I couldn’t wait to see how it ended and then I didn’t want it to end because then it would just be the end….

As a blogger it really sucks when you can’t formulate into words how great you thought a book was. All you can do is make your friends read it and then make your friend’s friends read it. And then you know, those friends, they your people.


Profile Image for Allison Sayles.
74 reviews2 followers
May 2, 2023
DNF @ 65%

the characters are just so problematic and i hate how they like ruin their lives to be with each other and completely lose their minds in like a bad way. the characters also aren’t very likable and are kind of jerks. i couldn’t stand to keep reading them acting like they’re in love when they are super annoying and just i can’t anymore
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,437 reviews234 followers
January 26, 2018
Rating: 3.5 Stars

This was a dark read, as expected, but it wasn't the story I was expecting. This was solidly Nell's story in my opinion. It was a tale of girl, who had been broken by the standards imposed by society, the pressure to achieve, and the demands of her overbearing mother.

•Pro: I found myself fully engrossed by this book. I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter, because I had to see where this was all going.

•Pro: I think people are going to find Nell unlikable, however there was something about the way Devore wrote her that made me share her pain and disappointments. I don't know if it was me relating to her as a woman, but as off-putting as she was, I wanted things to work out for her. Nell also experienced a lot of growth and was a different, wiser girl at the end of the book.

•Pro: This book takes on a lot of different topics broken families, class structure, but the one that resonated the most with me her exploration of gender inequality. Having graduated from engineering school and worked in IT, I just was able to related to what Nell was feeling.

•Pro: Devore also discusses the double standard that exists in society. Because Nell was driven and had goals she hoped to achieve, she was viewed as intense, in a negative way, whereas the boys were encouraged to go for what they wanted. Because Nell initiated sexual encounters, she was a slut, but you know, boys will be boys. I just found myself nodding my head in agreement often.

•Con: I was happy with the ending, but not totally satisfied. I still have some questions, but I think it was decent.

•Pro: I was a fan of the setting. Devore let us see some of the South Carolina beauty, and I always love seeing how the other half lives.

•Pro: The power politics were mind-blowing. This is not part of my nature, so watching it play out between Jackson and Nell was highly enlightening for me. Sometimes, it made me a little sad, but like a good train wreck, I could not look away.

•Pro: Go ahead, hate me, but I ended up liking Jackson. He evolved a lot over the course of the story, and there was good under all that damage. I also loved Nell's dad and her friends, Taylor and Lia. It was good to see she had someone in her corner.

•Pro: There was something about the romance that worked for me. It was obsessive and a little over the top, but there were these seemingly genuine moments shared between the two.

Overall: A provoking look at what can happen when the pressure to succeed pushes one girl past her limits.

ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews263 followers
November 27, 2017
This whole book is a freaking metaphor and I loved it. Throughout the first 30% of this book I was kind of doubting Laurie Devore's magic but... haha. no. SHE IS MAGICAL, IT IS CONFIRMED.

This book outlines the differences between how girls and boys are treated in society, and... it was infuriating to read. I got seriously pissed at like, 70% of the school for being like this and then I also thought about how I am technically, like this even just a little, even though I don't want to be? Because of the environment I live in, I am always going to have ingrained sexism and racism (and other forms of prejudice, I'm sure) in my mind. And it sucks.

Anyways! This book was a harsh light on society and also a heartbreaking love story and also just a general mess. But I still loved the mess?

Nell is a rude, smart, hard-working girl. And Jackson is smart, yes, but he hardly works and gets so much more than Nell does. Teachers praise him for nonsensical theories that he didn't even work hard for, and they dismiss Nell because she is a girl.

There's so much character development and growth for Nell as she kind of goes through three or four stages of herself and it's so interesting to watch. This is like one of those dramas where you want to grab popcorn (I KNOW IT'S CLICHE) and watch, but this is a freaking book so you can't oops.

Nell is such a strong, strong, freaking annoying character.

Where is that meme where someone goes, "GIRLLLLLLL DON'T DO IT" because that meme was me @ Nell 110% of the time. Why does she make such bad life choices and why can I relate to her. Whyyyy. But I still loved and rooted for Nell to grow. Which, ultimately, is the most important. Nell is kind of an anti-hero in the sense of how horrible she is during this book.

I feel like Laurie is just that author where the beginning of the book is very, very mellow and low-key but she slowly turns everything up so at the end of the book you're exactly this meme:

this is not fine meme

(Why am I mentioning memes so many times in this review what is wrong with me.)

Furthermore, Nell has anxiety and depression. She is suffering through so much and has learned to just shut all of her emotions down and throughout this book, she has anxiety attacks. Laurie actually included a paragraph about this and a bunch of links about mental illness, which I think is wonderful.

Anyways, I think you should read this book. And also Laurie Devore's other book, How to Break a Boy. You're welcome.
Profile Image for ♥️♥️ Lanae ♥️♥️ .
122 reviews33 followers
April 16, 2018
I REALLY SHOULD write a review for this one. Maybe i will later, but for now let me just say.... We definitely need more heroines like the one in this book in Young Adult. And I'm not saying that because the MC is likable (she got on my nerves) but because....it's so rare to come across a female MC who is not only the imperfect teenage girl most of us women were at some point... but unapologetically so. this book was sex-positive, team f*ck your double standards & I zoomed straight through this...Couldn't put it down, even when the characters made me want to face-palm.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,225 reviews391 followers
February 7, 2019
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got from the publisher via NetGalley as a reviewer for YA Books Central.

The phrases “beautiful disaster” and “bad romance” but NOT the well-known novels that use those phrases for their titles. Five different Emilie Autumn songs, “Did You Imagine” by Lumidee, and “I Want My Tears Back” by Nightwish. These are just a few of the things that Winner Take All is associated with in my head because all of those things fit the book’s events at one point or another.

Winner Take All is a hate-to-love novel that happens to go through the cycle a number of times. Hate to love to hate to love to hate to looooove… Six-foot-tall explosion of intensity Nell (talls girls in YA, whoo!) and garbage golden boy Jackson are obsessed with each other as they volley for the number-one spot in their grade and I almost obsessively read their book in the span of a few days. At the same time Nell would like to show him what’s what, she’d also like to make out with him–and Jackson feels the exact same way.

Nell hit me in the heart particularly hard as a character, especially because she had a panic attack over a .001 difference in GPA that puts Jackson in the number-one spot. I too was so obsessed with keeping my grades high in school, particularly in my senior year of high school when I wanted to achieve an all-As school year for the very first time. When a print photography project threatened to ruin my grade, I suffered my first-ever panic attack in the middle of a crowded school hallway. My photography teacher witnessed it and kindly waived the print photography project for me.

So yeah, I get where Nell is coming from to a degree. Even then, Nell’s mom (also her prep school’s headmistress) pushes her much harder to succeed than either of my parents pushed me. And to be frank, they didn’t need to push me much at all because I did well with little effort.

Meanwhile, Jackson has a few secrets while he and Nell are dancing around with one another. He’s got a garbage, serial-cheating dad and his mom is wrecked due to the aforementioned serial cheater, but he’s got some humanity hidden waaaaaaay deep down in there. At times, you can’t tell who’s more serious about their relationship: Nell or Jackson. The strength of Winner Take All comes down to the lit-match-meets-gasoline dynamic these two share and the many, many twists in their mutual story.

That’s not to diss the strong subplot wherein Nell’s best friend Lia is dating a guy whose mom is currently prosecuting Lia’s dad for corruption. Lia is a particularly welcome presence in the novel because she’s usually the one calling Nell on any bull. When Nell reaches her most obsessive, it’s Lia who sets her straight by reminding her that Nell Becker is not the center of the solar system. She’s just as much of a mess as everyone else in the novel, but Lia is my favorite mess.

My one bone to pick is with that ending. For a novel that’s outright described to be about “obsessive love,” it ends on a note that feels anything but satisfying. I felt a shot of dread instead because good GOD these two need to exist a significantly away from one another. At least a full state apart.

It’s true: Laurie Devore’s novels are the readalikes for Courtney Summers fans. Winner Take All is even a step up from How to Break a Boy and I’m excited to read the next book that comes from Devore’s hands. It’ll fulfill your desire for imperfect, messy leading ladies in YA!
Profile Image for Giulia.
695 reviews103 followers
March 30, 2019
"Because it doesn’t matter how far I’ve climbed. It’ll never be quite enough. I’ll always be just a little bit less to them. The girl who can’t accept her fate. Who won’t stop fighting."

TW: neglecting parents, abuse, alcoholism, racism, depression, sexism, panic attacks, slut-shaming

Unpopular Opinion Time 🐸☕️

Well. This was a fucking mess to say the very least.
I don’t even know where to start for this Rather Random Review™️ if I have to be honest.
I’d say that, in general, the message was interesting, the characters were unlikable, the writing style was bad, and the overall plot was lacking.

Let’s start with the plot.
Some plot twists were predictable and I saw them coming from miles away, which is unfortunate. That kinda took off the tension and thrill of the book and made everything slightly boring.
Also, in my opinion everything was just too damn dramatic. Too toxic, too obsessive.
And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this because I can’t handle tough subjects, or unlikable characters or anything like that. I’m pinpointing these things because they made the book unrealistic, in my opinion.
I couldn’t believe that so many intense things could happen one after the other. I mean, I know shit can go down but, damn, chill. It just was too much drama and that just did not allow me to fully get hooked by the story and the characters – everything was almost improbable, and that’s why I was not really a fan of the plot as a whole.
Everything was too over the top; there was no end to the drama, and it was too much.

I also gotta admit, though, that it was fucking addicting. Once I started Winner Take All, I couldn’t really stop reading it. I was not enjoying it, I was definitely not liking the book (hence my rating) but I simply could not put this book down. I had to know how everything ended (huge disappointment, by the way. What a ridiculous ending). The plot was so impossible, so unrealistic, so overly dramatic that it was precisely like watching a Spanish soap opera: ridiculous and improbable, but engrossing nonetheless.

Everything was so incredibly toxic in this book.
There was not one (1) relation or character that was actually fully functional and healthy, I swear to God. That’s also why everything felt like it was too much. Our main characters and their families did not have one (1) redeeming quality and, I mean, c’mon. For real?
Apparently, yes.
Our main characters were twisted, diabolic and simply bad and unlikable. Okay, no, allow me to be honest, they were walking garbage cans. Nothing more, nothing less.

Nell is a true Slytherin.
And in this piece of information there’s everything you have to know about her. She’s ambitious and determined, strong-willed and cold, calculating and cunning. She’s clearly not a likable character but (I’m not gonna lie here) at the beginning I truly found fascinating being in her head and following her thoughts and feelings.
It was sick, but it was captivating. She uses everything and everyone to get to the top; no remorses whatsoever. And almost no redemption – she does realise that she made mistakes and she apologises but everything is super ambivalent so, in the end, it feels like there was no personal growth. Which, tbh, was a pity. She was bad at the beginning, she was bad at the end. No improvement whatsoever.
She’s such an hypocrite, to be honest. She kept on, throughout the book, saying that Jackson (the other main character) used everybody, was selfish and cruel but, hell, she’s not THAT different from him. But she doesn’t realise it and she keeps on playing the victim. LOOK IN A FUCKING MIRROR, GIRL! You’re not better than him. You’re a glorious piece of shit, just like him. Get off your fucking high horse and realise how fucking privileged you are. She kept on saying that she was not as rich and had to struggle but…now, let me be petty and super specific. She had a house with AC and heating; she went to a private high school; she never had to worry about food, clothes or electricity; she will go to college; she practiced sports and whatnot. Maybe she’s not as rich, but she sure has her privileges. And the worst thing is that she was blind to all that. So fucking pretentious.
By the end of the book I was royally done with her and her repetitive inner monologues. For as much as I appreciated them at the beginning, they got old and redundant rather quickly.

Jackson. Wow, what a walking piece of cliché shit. He was such a typical YA bad boy that in reality has deep and profound feelings, it was laughable. Needless to say, I was not a fan of his character. He was just a walking stereotype.

Lia, on the other hand, was a fucking ray of sunshine and she deserved the world. Actually, she deserved a whole book just dedicated to her story. That, I’d gladly read.
She was so smart and supportive and patient. She was a fucking golden star. And also, most probably she was the only healthy and normal people in the whole book. Voice of reason and all that. Thank god there was Lia in this book because otherwise, god only knows what might have happened.

And now, lemme tackle the writing style.
There’s no cute way to say it: it was bad. I felt that, in general, it was a bit choppy and jumpy. Some discussions, thoughts and feelings came out of literally nowhere and made no sense. I was so freaking confused.
It was messily written and sometimes repetitive in the points it wanted to make. Nell’s inner monologue about the difference between girls and boys and achieving stuff was repeated so many times that, by the end, it lost its power. The characters were described always in the same way, using the same metaphors and ideas. God only knows how many times I’ve read that, to Jackson, everything is a game. God only knows… 🙄
It would have definitely gained from a couple more rounds of editing, I think.
The characters kept on having the same fight and the same discussions/arguments. After a bit Winner Take All got a bit redundant.

The arguments and issues tackled in this book were also something a bit controversial.
One the one hand, I liked the discussion that was present throughout the book about sexism, and how girls cannot be too much, and how girls have to work harder to get what a straight white rich boy can get in a blink of an eye, and how it is easier for girls to lose everything they worked their asses of whereas a guy can do pretty much what he wants with no repercussions.
That was a tough yet important discussion to have.

But on the other hand, this book should have been about empowering, and fighting slut-shaming, and fighting sexism. Wonderful, truly. All this is wonderful. But, damn, there was so much girl-on-girl hate thrown in there it was ridiculous :/
Nell judged or looked down on almost every single girl she met just because they weren’t like her, or didn’t behave like her, or simply did not have her goals.
Moreover, I was not particularly a fan of the victim-blaming. I’m not gonna give spoilers but I still wanna give you an idea of what I’m talking about. So, a toxic relationship in this book (one of the many toxic relationships of this book) also had cheating and a character practically said that it was the cheatee’s fault if they were okay with being treated like shit; they accepted the situation so it was okay that they were cheated on. Their fault, they should have done something….mmmm….okay? I mean…that doesn’t sound very good, now, does it?

And to add insult to injury, I strongly hated the ending.
Like, was the ending a joke? Because it fucking felt like one. For real? That happened for REAL? Okay, sounds fake but okay. Man, that was so bad. So cliché and cheesy and corny and all the things that I despise in an ending…wow. Just wow.

I finished this book in two days but, man, what a waste of time.

"I guess that’s the thing about kerosene veins. Lots of different things can light you on fire."
Profile Image for Jess M.
716 reviews3 followers
January 26, 2018
When I read the synopsis for this book I thought I was really going to enjoy it. I am a sucker for hate to love relationships (no matter how unrealistic they may be). However, this book made me cringe and roll my eyes and flat at scream at it. There were so many things that I disliked about this. First of all the main character Nell was so unlikable. She had few if any redeeming qualities. She would react in such toxic ways to the other characters especially towards her best friend Lia and Love interest Jackson (we'll get to him next.) When you think she may redeem herself for her horrible (and if I may so, unforgivable behavior) she does the exact opposite and does something worse. She literally turned out to be one of the worst human beings I have ever read about. There was also so much girl hate and slut-shaming in this book and it was so disappointing. She would trash talk other girls and then make tremendous mistakes later on (See storyline at the end of book). She made so many stupid mistakes that I was yelling at the book in some places. The blatant victim-blaming made me sick. As well as, the lying and mind games that were conducted by the main characters. At the beginning I thought I would relate to her because we had similar ambitions in high school to push ourselves to do the best in school...but she had such a disregard for others and their feelings that I could not understand how anyone liked her at all. She was constantly whining about the "rich kids" in her school and shown blatant disregard for anyone else's struggles. She had ZERO compassion even when people were pouring their heart out. She was literally the worst kind of person. Jackson was just as bad, but at least he showed some kind of human emotion throughout (not that this made up for the despicable things he did). The way he used people and sought revenge was horrible. Even the ending was horrible. She didn't deserve it. She barely sought forgiveness but got it nonetheless. It was ridiculous. I am still mad. I am not going to waste another minute writing about this. This book was a major miss for me.
I received an Arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for alice.
269 reviews333 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
December 25, 2017
DNF at page 57.

I was excited to read this book at first because I love competition-like books that end in romance. However, it wasn't what I expected and just felt a bit.... preppy and mediocre. It's strange to have those two words in the same phrase, but this one didn't capture me as much as I hoped it would.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,481 reviews903 followers
Shelved as 'setting-aside-for-now'
January 28, 2018
I read about 50 pages and, while this seems somewhat promising it just didn't grab me that much.

Will be giving this away so someone else can try it - watch my social media for details if you are interested.

Read more of my reviews on JenRyland.com or check out my Bookstagram!

I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher for possible review.
Profile Image for mghrebia.
110 reviews
February 3, 2018
I really liked it! I know a lot of people were upset about some of the mind games but it was in the copy so was expecting it. I like that Laurie Devore pushes her charactes to the edge and they go to really dark places. It makes for a compelling read and I find her books so compulsively readable. Can't wait to see what she does next!

Idk if I'll review because I don't really review anymore but maybe because I did like it a lot!
Profile Image for Peaches.
20 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2022
So uhm
What did i just read?
The start was good. Great even. Things got messed up like shit escalated so quickly by the end.
The theme were great, the internal conflicts. The emotions like passion, obsession the need to win were portrayed exceptionally.
The characters were ... 😓
I did not understand what happened in the end. Nell and Jackson are way too toxic for each other🙂
Profile Image for Michelle .
2,016 reviews230 followers
February 2, 2018
**You can see this full review and more at Book Briefs: https://bookbriefs.net**
Winner Take All is a young adult contemporary by Laurie Devore. It was a really interesting read for me. There were parts of it that I liked and parts of the story that I didn't love as much, but I will say one thing about this novel, it really made me think. Even the characters that I didn't love, made me think. And for that, I enjoyed Winner Take All. It was different than I expected, but not necessarily in a bad way. Winner Take All was a very entertaining read that made me think a lot about double standards that exist in our society today.

Winner Take All is the story an extremely competitive main character. Nell wants to be the best at everything. Nell is a very polarizing character. I can see readers either really liking her or really disliking her. Personally, I liked Nell. I liked that she is who she is. No, she is not perfect. Yes, she can be brash and abrasive at times, but she owns who she is. And we got to see a lot of great character growth with Nell throughout the course of the story. I felt like I really got to know her and get a feel for what was going on inside of her head. I was rooting for Nell.

And hey, I liked her more than Jackson. Jackson had his moments, and I came to appreciate him as a character, but man oh man did he get on my nerves at times. One thing that was unexpected for me was the sexiness of the book. I didn't expect it to be quite so saucy. It was a pleasant surprise for me, but be warned for some of the younger readers. I would recommend Winner Take All for upper young adult readers due to the mature nature of more than a few scenes. (If you like that sort of thing, let me tell you...you will really like this.) 

Winner Take All is set in high school, and it really delves into a lot of the double standards that exist for males and females. That was my favorite part of the book. Yes, I liked the romance and I loved the competitive natures of the characters, but this book was thought provoking as well. Plus, I love a good rivalry. Overall, I had moments of annoyance with Winner Take All, but I ended up really enjoying this one. I can't wait to see what other readers think of Nell, so let me know. 

This review was originally posted on Book Briefs
Profile Image for saša.
344 reviews12 followers
April 24, 2022
winner take all: 3/5

the reason why i started reading this book was because i saw someone comment on a post that it was an academic rivals to lovers book, and i was instantly interested. when i first started, i expected a basic not-that-good of a ya book, but to my surprise i found something else.

my first thoughts of the book weren’t all that positive. i thought that there was no chemistry between the characters and their relationship made no sense to me, since they aren’t supposed to like each other but they still kind of speak too casually for people who are rivals.

while i actually ended up liking the book, i still have a few negative comments. one of the first ones is that there was no good reason for jackson to be mad at nell for speaking truthfully, especially when he said he didn’t want her pity. yes, i understand she was harsh and rude, but in the end he got what he asked for. their relationship was sweet in the beginning and i actually enjoyed it a lot, but then it started going south, and that’s when i really started to like this book. it got toxic and manipulative and interesting and i was here for it. we had the drama about her faking her pregnancy, him using her to get back at his dad, their parents having an affair, him telling her that she is a slut and threatening to tell everyone that they have been together and them finally understanding that they were both horrible to each other. it surprised me.

the writing style was okay most of the time, but the author didn’t end scenes completely before starting new ones. it left me a bit confused, because i sometimes didn’t know who was talking or what was even going on in the book.
the book would have been better if they hadn’t ended up together. they are clearly incompatible and this book could have enforced the importance of consequences.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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