[Review] The Deal – Elle Kennedy

Book Title:                 The Deal (Off Campus Series #01)
Author:                         Elle Kennedy
Number of pages:  358


The Deal - Elle Kennedy - book coverShe’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy… 

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice… even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good. 

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

(re: Goodreads @ The Deal – Elle Kennedy)

Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:

– It’s shelved under sports (Hockey) despite its limited appeal to the actual game play…
– Alternating perspectives between Hannah and Garrett with omnipresent social issues lending itself to NA/erotic romance as a means for character growth
– While the deal is plausible in conception, the exposition lacks support in creating a realistic environment where an entire class can fail in order to spark the conflict. It downplays the institutional value of education but readers may find it easily overlooked through all of the witty bantering and swoony moments
– The psyche of male/female characters are well fleshed out and though there is instalust, the romance is of the slow-burn type
— Rating: 2.5/5


Initial Thoughts

I solemnly dedicate this reading experience to Brandie @ Brandie is a Book Junkie and every individual whom I have promised to give the contemporary NA genre/age-group a shot. (I am so, so, so sorry for this exhaustive rant. I have no idea what I’m doing over here in NA LOL.)

This book is one of those reads that I decided to try on impulse as I was woeful from the current and on-going results of the NHL/Stanley Cup. But I digress.

I am also trying out this new graphical review style as well. I hope it helps…?

Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.



Thought 2: Parentheses will be used in this review to demonstrate my wandering train of thought.

Thought 3: I have no fucking clue how to review books in this age group/genre and what-merits-what. But I will try.


The Deal is a character-driven, slow-burn romantic comedy about college life when you carry baggage into a new phase of discovering yourself. The story follows Hannah Wells as she makes a deal with Garrett Graham; prodigal son of a famed hockey player, and star Adonis of his hockey team—to help him pass a Philosophy exam if he shines the spotlight on Hannah for a certain footballer to take notice of.


Briar University is home to a vibrant social life (because if you aren’t partying, then you’re obviously not “doing College right”), a ravenous sports following, and many bags of pucks that can’t seem to excel in a philosophy class. The narrative is told in two alternating perspectives, Hannah’s and Garrett’s, following their relationship from strictly business to something more and they find that they learn a lot about themselves along the way.

Included in the narrative, you have your favourite (hipster?) coffee hangout, a (sporty?) frat house, the scales of friendship versus instalust/love, a Love-V (which is the true definition of “love triangle”), the spending of tuition money to validate the necessity of tomfoolery, some boy (who’s rich and has a shitty upbringing), some girl (who’s broke as shit and an awkward duckling until…), sisters before misters (…until “the one” shows up), some misunderstanding, some deal, and a whole lot of feel-good young love, bantering, and privileged living – all of which is nodded to throughout this book.


Garrett Graham is an interesting fella. Not only is his last name food-related (so, bonus points for that I guess), he’s the brawny archetype who’s actually smarter than people give him credit for…except for the fact that he’s coincidentally underperforming in one class. While I could talk about how genuine and sweet he was…that’s not where my focus lies in his character. My problem with The Deal comes to life looking at his conception as a character versus the spark that spawns the conflict: where it’s generally accepted for him to perform well in all subjects except for one. It’s to my understanding that if you’re on the edge of failing, you’d put more eggs into that basket to try to, you know, succeed (not to mention that he’s involved in extracurricular activities and he has a desire to stick it to his father). The construct of the narrative doesn’t support the conflict for the deal to be anything more than just a way for Garrett to learn more about another girl he has yet to meet.

I wasn’t a Philosophy major in university; so I don’t want to overstep my boundaries despite two years of it in high school. However, given that there’s rarely a right-or-wrong in defending a stance/argument (using theory and “how philosophers would respond” as they story suggests), I find it difficult to believe that Garrett wouldn’t be able to perform at least at an average given his admittance that he’s skillful at pooping out black and white fact-based knowledge on a whim (re: history major) coupled with his superpowers to socialize like a butterfly. Philosophy would seem like a subject that basically caters to him.

Unless, of course, he’s overstepping his own capabilities; in fact, he could be lying. (Looks like an overcast day with a chance of readers being clouded by swoons and not seeing the unreliability through his amazing stick-handling skills—on ice.) There is a distinction in having the necessary toolbox of skills and simply not applying yourself. I think we can rule out apathetic behaviour given his status as a player to a school with zero-tolerance for academic shortcomings. What is it then? I mean, surely there’s no reason to believe Garrett would purposely fail to get the ball rolling with meeting more girls, let alone Hannah.

See, the writing passes the conflict off as “the class is tough” and “no one bullshits like Hannah”. That’s fine to a certain extent. I’ve been in classes where midterm grades hovered in the high-50s; where even the brightest minds have fallen short. I get it. But at the same time, there’s this tickling in my brain telling me that there’s a flaw in all the background noise, the education, that was overlooked and dealt with far too easy, even for fiction’s sake.

Maybe schools are different elsewhere but in the courses I’ve worked under, normalized grade distributions (re: curves) are a thing and if a percentage of your class is underperforming, it becomes a reflection on many aspects; teaching methods being one of them. Now, there’s an expectation gap present where what’s being taught isn’t reflecting student achievement. While this becomes an issue of student advocacy, it’s passed off by administration allowing an exam retake. Uhhh. The conception of a course is a multifaceted endeavour and using the get-out-of-jail-free-card of issuing another exam (which isn’t the same as an additional assignment) is a copout to the integrity of education.

Utilising the trope of “smart girl agrees to help a lesser student succeed” is one thing but building conflict within education itself that becomes easily resolved by simple tutoring is a problem that suspends belief in a contemporary setting given the character dilemmas we’re working with. Not only that, it relieves a symptom and not the underlying problem which goes against Briar University as an institution. Unless this is a commentary about the faults in higher education (which isn’t resolved with any effort), then no, I don’t really understand how/why the entire class is failing. It must become incredibly easy to dismiss the structural pitfalls in writing when a reader’s attention is focused on the player-meets-beautiful-girl trope. This book is wholeheartedly character driven but the misrepresentation in conflict creates a dissonance in elevating the realism of this deal from ever happening.

But let’s talk about Hannah; who is as vividly imagined as a girl burdened by a past can be. I can’t speak to the her psyche but she does feel well fleshed out even if there were moments of questionable behaviour straying from her personality to drastically change in such a short period of time. The underlying social issue is mentioned early and is handled with care—not passed off as something that fixes itself on a whim. It was a trial-and-error rediscovery of trust that I actually appreciated. I’ve read that erotic romance is a style of fiction that pushes growth and The Deal is a prime example of this notion; where the sex is adequately described and builds their character (even well-endowed bantering is thrown into the mix). Furthermore, Hannah works toward getting what she wants and isn’t terribly annoying on her path to her goals (although tolerances differ for whiny leads). Her “tutor” role isn’t actually more than her reminding Garrett of how awesome he could be since his knowledge is sound but the approach is misguided.


While The Deal is many things, what it is not is a novel that ought to be classified within the sports genre. Yes, hockey players are the subject in this book—and like most sports franchises—there are players who are buff and gruff and make for wonderful swoony fantasies.  To me, if a book is to be labeled as such, the fundamental theme has to utilise the sport to grind out their willingness for growth. They have to face hardships (did they even lose?). They have to dive into the actual game play (the hockey was more about Garrett not wanting to live in his father’s shadow). The sport ought to be the central issue (the deal was the focus). For an avid viewer of hockey, this book fails in this regard. However, to the regular NA-reader, yes, you will probably enjoy it because romance is reasonably at the forefront. (I was basically duped into thinking this had more sports than it actually does. I was deceived, basically.)

I’m just going to say this now: is there a positive correlation between swooning and quantitative scores, where maximum swoonage = five-stars? The banter was fun to read into and the core character issues was something I think was handled well but the oversaturation of tropes that removed any response to look at the problems in exposition is disheartening. Though the one positive thing I will say is that there was no “I let out a breathe I didn’t know I was holding”. Hallelujah to that! If The Deal by Elle Kennedy fixed the hole in everyone failing and Garrett being of a different major (perhaps number crunching in Math—or is that “too nerdy” for a sports fanatic?), then it would strengthen the accessibility in conflict to be more than just fiction.


connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads


19 thoughts on “[Review] The Deal – Elle Kennedy”

  1. Haha, I loved this review. I don’t usually click on NA reviews (just not my genre) but when I saw that you were the one reviewing I thought, “This oughta be good”. You did not disappoint!


  2. Can I get you to do a rage post every Monday? Best way to start the week! LOL. I love the way you set this up and your description of the setting…LOL. And your concerns about the class failing are valid and understandable. I totally get your beef. But you nailed it on the head – readers aren’t even paying attention to that, they’re reading it for the relationship and swoony moments, IMHO. That’s what most NA books focus on and the other stuff is background noise. BUT even I, lover of NA, can’t stand a book that’s unrealistic. To me, this screams cheesy, and I couldn’t bring myself to try it. Unrealistic is for fantasy novels – it better seem real to me if I’m reading NA. Add the fact that it doesn’t even talk about the sport it’s supposed to be about (which would be over my head, but still). Although, if you’re rating it decent on the swooning and bantering, it makes me almost want to try it. I’m hard to win over these days when it comes to these books, and I’m afraid I’m experiencing an NA burnout.

    I’m kind of surprised that you didn’t hate this book more! There’s hope, I just have to find the perfect and most realistic NA book. I ‘think’ you would actually find CoHo’s earlier books well done but I fear your rage on my favorite author.

    I had to crack up at the ‘well-endowed bantering’ part because I really hate that in books. It is an annoying repeat in just about every erotica/NA and it’s an eye-roller. I cringe.

    And food-related last name – LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The setting seriously felt like every other conventional college romance setting. Like, no, seriously. Why don’t people ever like hang out in the library and mull over exams? Why not the inundating task of budgeting for groceries? Ugh. C’mon now–not everyone is privilege enough to buy coffee from a hole-in-the-wall shop. Get real.

      Yeah, the swooning and bantering were solid (I think?) but as I mentioned in the tweet convo, it doesn’t justify the flimsy expositive narrative that needs to ground the entire deal. It just…no.

      I’m the 0.00001% voice in the 20k+ people who rated it 5-stars so I’m probably in the wrong or something LOL.

      Honestly, if i were to pick apart every single detail…we’d be here all day. I’m sure there were more issues but those were the ones that stuck out to me.

      And yes, maybe I should just do a JoeyDoesCoHoMonth and just read NA all month (because in truth: if this NA book is of any representation of the writing in other books…it’s SUPER quick to read).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What is this?! NA?! You read NA?! (Why isn’t it a Colleen Hoover book??!?? Read Maybe Someday already!! *insert book throwing gif here*)

    I haven’t read this one, so I can’t realllly discuss, as such. But dang you did a good job on this review. And you’re a dude, Joey. Do you know what this means?! I can FINALLY get a dude’s perspective on a romance book! Hallelujah! And major lolz – yes, the more banter and the more swoons, my rating automatically goes up. Sorry, not sorry. It’s what I look for in my fictional Romeo… because real-life Romeo’s are oh-so-hard-to-find. Trust me, I’m still looking.

    R x


    1. LOL. IT JUST HAPPENED, OKAY? WHAT IF I HATE COHO. Our friendship may never be the same ever again.

      I honestly read this because I thought it had more to do with sports than it actually did. I was so, so, so wrong. (Not to mention the 12371983721312 reviews of glorious praise. C’mon now, stop it people with your 5-stars like its meaningless.)

      Swoons cloud logical judgment I tell you. Knees going weak does not mean it deserves another +1 star!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you gave this 2.5/5 (I’d not have picked it up because of the cover, just sayin’) I think you’d give Maybe Someday or Confess a good… 3.5/4. I’m picking these two recs because they’re mixed media. I think they’d offer you more than just swoons. Which is all I need really. Maybe Someday has a fricking SOUNDTRACK. Confess has original artwork and reader confessions! I’d recommend Slammed too, because spoken word poetry… but I’d start with Maybe Someday.

        Yea. But swoons affect real-life judgement too. Weak knees doesn’t mean you let assholes off with crap. But alas, I live to make mistakes 🙂


  4. Like Rachel, I’m pretty surprised that you read this? Who knew?! I rarely do NA as well, but man, I feel like I should check this out now because you did. Lol.


    1. LMAO. Who knew indeed. I gave it a try and it was a pretty simple read (as in no engrossing world to slowly spend time in). It did feel like a prototypical college romance (basing it off of movies I’ve seen previously). You should let me know if you read it then tell me if your swoons over bantering increases your objective rating.


  5. I’ve seen so many reviews that rave about this one, and I’ve wondered if it was because of who the author is (that happens sometimes), or if it appealed to a certain reader, or what it could possibly be. This one just never appealed to me.


    1. I can definitely understand when opinions lose objectiveness because of the emotional ties to a book/author. Personally, I still think I would have found these flaws even if I had a previous connection with her other works (which I know nothing of).

      But yes–so much rave reviews! It’s crazy.


    1. I’m sure many of you would enjoy my rage at nitpicking the realism of events that happen in college life (because it is NOT like the shows/movies).

      I’m interested to see if this Vibe of yours turns out good or bad. And thanks–I’m trying to make long reviews like this (it was 1.8k words or something) more accessible to people who don’t want to spend time hearing me ruin their favourite potential book LOL.


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