I picked up the Pepper Jones series earlier this year on a whim. They wound up being one of my favorite series of the summer and I decided to save Pep Talks (book four) to read closer to when the final book in the series, Pepped Up Forever came out. I never like saying goodbye to characters so I thought it would be best to read them back to back. In Pep Talks we saw our cross country team grow up as they all moved on to college.
(This is the fourth book in the Pepper Jones series, which should be read in order. The first three books in the series may be purchased as a box set for a discounted price, under the title “The Pepper Jones Collection.”)
Pepper’s freshman year at college is a harder transition than she anticipated. Uncertain of her coach’s expectations or her place among her new teammates, she struggles to redefine her running goals and identity on the cross country team. Pepper’s steady relationship with Jace should be a source of comfort as she navigates the college social environment, but an unexpected event throws everything between them off track. Also, hear from Jace’s point of view for the first time EVER. Growing up is hard, and when you’re Pepper Jones, running may be the only way to help you get through it.
My heart is officially broken for Pepper throughout most of Pep Talks. I’m angry at Jace, but I’m glad to see that Pepper doesn’t let it completely ruin her running & school work. I really really really had hoped to see them back together by the end of the book but the final breakup just makes me more hopeful that Jace can get over himself by the time All Pepped Up is over.
One thing I’ve struggled with on the whole Pepper Jones series is how quickly some of these books move. While I love that we pretty much covered all of Pepper’s Freshman year of college, it was a lot of jumping through time without time really being defined. I did like that by the time we got to the end of the book, Ali Dean gave us “Three Months Later” to describe just exactly where we were.
I did love hearing Jace’s perspective. It made me hate him slightly less, but I am still mad at him. We did not get an update on Annie, and it would almost be interesting to hear her perspective as the book ended… sort of “where is she now” and “was she really doing drugs?” Maybe that is coming next.
Reading about Pepper’s mindset through races is one of my favorite parts of these books. In the beginning she said she never really had a clear racing plan but by the end of the book she had figured out where she needed to be. I hope by next season of her cross country meets we can get more insight into her overall strategy as she now has a solid place on the team.
Finally, eating disorders. I will stand by ANY book that addresses eating disorders. As someone who did gymnastics, coached gymnastics & watched gymnastics I have heard A LOT about eating disorders. Ali Dean addressed it and showed the negative side effects and I am so glad she did. I hope we get an update on Gabi in Pepped Up Forever.
Part of me is sad that Pepped Up Forever is the last book in the series, I’ve been loving reading about Pepper Jones so much this year but at the same time I realize that some book series can’t go on forever. With only one book to go, I really hope she and Jace can figure out how to make it work!
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