I was so intrigued with Adam and Mia’s story that I had to check out the follow-up. So with some trepidation, because I am now invested in these characters I decided to read At Any Turn, book 2 in the Gaming the System series. Let me tell you, Brenna stepped her game up with this one, you are literally learning at the same rate as the characters are getting the experience which makes for such an enjoyable read. The story is told from Adam’s POV, and its refreshing because it keeps the story fresh and it lets you get an idea about some of his feelings from the first installment. Looking through my notes, I tried to figure out what it was that had kept me so engrossed in the story, I would say that its the real world parallels that you can draw from the interactions between Mia and Adam. The story picks up just as Adam is finishing up his ‘vision quest’ to rid himself of his addiction to work. He is still the cocky S.O.B. that you met in At Any Price. I think the difference this time around is that he has come to understand a few things about himself. First, he realized that he has a tendency to keep secrets so that he can orchestrate an outcome that he can live with. The only difference this go round is that Adam, doesn’t totally realize the magnitude to which his need for control can take him. By contrast Mia has a few decisions that she needs to make and her insecurity over her past is still present in specter form in terms of her applying and getting accepted to med school. She still has that dream to be a doctor and the drive within her is still just as strong as it ever was before, if not more so, because you can tell that she has love for Adam, but there are elements of it that she holds back almost as if to keep herself from falling fully into their relationship. I think the echoes of what happened to her mother keep her in a paranoid state for a good deal of this second book.
I love how honest and down to earth Adam was, I would have pegged him as being more self-contained but he came out of his experience in the desert relying heavily on Mia to keep him in check with his addiction issues, not realizing that it was a big mantle to lay at her doorstep and that they still had a ton of growing to do before they could reach their own utopia. A huge theme within the fabric of the storyline was the need for compromise, which was a lesson they both failed at miserably. Adam’s inability to deal with the grief from his sisters death was heightened in its exposure and his desire to not have his feelings laid bare in front of Mia definitely contributed to the ongoing battle of wills between the two of them throughout the book. As their relationship unravels and their individual needs for independence and free will become apparent to them both, the bonus round begins for them and things are stressed to the point of fracture. Without giving too much away, I think they grow up a little bit by the end of the book. Not having actually reached a conclusion about their issues but about how they need to view and react to each other. The candid nature of each of the characters is refreshing. You get a real full picture of how each feels for the other without the back and forth that you can get in some books (i.e.: switching POV to tell the story). I would go into more as I have a couple of pages worth of notes but it wouldn’t be fair for those readers that haven’t yet had a chance to take in the story. I will simply say that its a story that can be appreciated and enjoyed, due to the careful crafting of each of the characters. The fullness of the story is simply a bonus to the equation. Out of a possible 5 stars this one gets all 5.
Oh wait one issue I did have was the hair color issue – WTF!!!! OMG even I hated the hair, I am usually pretty flexible about that stuff, but it irritated me to no end and when I got the answers behind it, I think that might have pissed me off a bit more. Ignore that tangent until after you’ve had a chance to take a read. I hope you enjoy the story and the characters as much as I did. Happy Reading!