Third Degree by Julie Cross
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: March 24, 2014
Format: eARC, 240 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.
But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.
Izzy is a child prodigy. She’s brilliant, oddly literal and doesn’t possess many social skills. As a med student, social skills weren’t high on the list of qualities she needed to have. Now she’s been kicked out of the residency program because they didn’t think she had the emotional readiness to be a surgeon. The medical board has agreed to let her retake the test in six months. She decided to reenroll in college so she can have the normal college experience and make up her mind about what she wants to do. It’s a huge shift for someone who always had her life planned out and there are lots of bumps along the way.
Izzy reminded me a lot of Brennan from the TV show Bones. Or at least I was picturing a younger Bones while I was reading this. I feel they share many of the same traits. I never found Izzy unlikeable, it just took a couple chapters for me to warm up to her fully and connect with her. If anything, I felt sorry for her because I just can’t imagine what her life must have been like. She began college at 12 years old. Her emotional development was obviously stunted. But, her heart was in the right place, even if her actions and way of speaking were off-putting to others.
The first person Izzy meets when she gets to college is Marshall. He’s an RA on her floor and they strike up a fast friendship. He’s from her hometown, so he knows all about her. He insists on helping her have a true college experience and also helps her understand more about boundaries when it comes to other people. She calls it babysitting her, and maybe there’s a little truth to that. He’s just a genuinely sweet guy and he’s helping her a lot. It’s not all that long before the lines get muddled and the friendship begins to turn into something else entirely. Something it’s not supposed to be since he’s an RA and she’s one of his charges. Something she’s conflicted about because she feels she’s not “normal” and she doesn’t want to keep him from something normal.
I absolutely adored Izzy and Marsh. They had chemistry and their banter was great. I loved the support he gave her, without ever really holding back from her. He was a sweet guy all around and something about them just clicked. When they were friends, I wanted them to be more. When their relationship was growing, I cheered them on with all I had. I definitely had a case of the warm fuzzies over these two.
Third Degree was all set up to be a regular, run of the mill new adult novel. Until that moment where it wasn’t anymore. I won’t say anything that I think will ruin any part of the story for you, but I had to point this out because this switch is what really made the story for me. This is when Izzy truly began to grow as a person. She began to see what was missing before and made changes towards claiming those missing pieces. Her emotional connection to those around her grew. I just wanted to hug her.
This story really was something special. I laughed and cried. I loved the characters and the journey they went on together – and separately – in this book. Happily-ever-after lovers, don’t fret. There’s some angst, but you won’t need boxes of tissues to get through it and the ending is quite rewarding. I’ve never read anything by Julie Cross before now and I’m glad I chose this as my introduction to her work. I was taken completely by surprise with this book and that doesn’t happen too often. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.