Review: Unrivaled by Alyson Noël

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Everyone wants to be someone.

Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

Unrivaled is #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël’s first book in a thrilling suspense trilogy about how our most desperate dreams can become our darkest nightmares.

I loved the cover and the blurb as soon as I picked this book up. It sounded like the perfect mix of Gossip Girl elite and who-dun-it mystery, and I’ve been keen to get into another well-written suspense.


This book is multi-POV through the three MCs Layla, Aster, and Tommy, with occasional entries by Madison. It starts off with a prologue of Madison being kidnapped which I guess was meant to reel in the reader and get them through the first 60% of the book where basically nothing happens. We go through the first-date, ‘get to know the characters’ initial chapters three times before the Unrivaled competition even starts.

There is just so much establishing. As the first book in the series I guess Noël really wanted us to know her stereotypical characters right down to their two-dimensional depths.

Aster and Madison were the two who showed the most promise and I felt like we didn’t get anywhere near as much time with them as I would have liked.

Once the awkward small talk was over, the book really picked up. From about 60% to the end, there was a lot more intrigue and it felt like the characters actually had to do some work for what they wanted. Layla’s blog posts warmed me toward her too.

The night Madison’s kidnap takes place delivers the kind of high-stakes drama I was expecting from this book, and it was fun watching the main characters puzzle out exactly what took place.

As much as I ended up enjoying this book, it suffers from severe ‘series set-up syndrome’. The cliffhanger ending leaves you wanting more, but there were too many questions left unanswered (and I don’t think a single plot line resolved), that you also feel cheated for the time invested. Like, if I don’t finish the series, I’ve spent a few hours on nothing.

While I might sound overly critical of this book, it’s only because the ending delivered so much. Noël reinstated my confidence in her as a writer and if there had been a solid wrap-up I easily could have given this book a higher rating.

As it stands, I’ll hope the second book builds on the momentum the first leaves us with, for a really killer read.

AOaR_3star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is busy writing in her mind, and growing a baby in her belly. You can follow her random tweeting here

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