Review: The Theory of Second Best by J. Bengtsson

THE THEORY OF SECOND BEST

J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Released: January 9, 2017
Source: Audible Audiobook
Rating: 4 stars

Twenty-two-year-old Kyle McKallister has lived his life in the shadows. Younger brother to one of the world’s most elusive and embattled celebrities, Kyle has carved out a comfortable existence touring with his famous brother and living in the lap of luxury with no commitments or plans of his own, only a deep, haunting loyalty to his brother. But his life is about to be shaken up when the opportunity comes to compete on a popular reality show.

Small town girl Kenzie Williams has come on the show for one thing only: to win. But when a disastrous start forces her to rely on an eclectic band of misfits, she finds herself immediately smitten with a handsome and mysterious cast mate.

But life on the island is just a game. Can Kyle and Kenzie’s fragile spark survive the pressures of the real world?

After loving Cake, the first book in this series, so much, I was excited to continue and get Kyle’s story. As Jake’s younger brother, Kyle struggled with not only living in Jake’s shadow but also intense feelings of guilt. Outwardly Kyle was the laid-back jokester but that masked a whole lot of past hurt.
 
Small-town girl Kenzie was ready to break out, see the world, and shed some of the responsibilities she’d be shouldering for so long. Being chosen for a Survivor-style reality show seemed to be the perfect escape, and the prize money would help her family.

I was so iffy about the reality-show aspect (I am not a fan of reality TV) but the ins and outs of the show didn’t over-shadow what I was really there for: Kenzie and Kyle. I loved the instant friendship they formed (in spite of their inauspicious beginning when Kenzie puked all over Kyle) and how they came to depend on one another. There was a great cast of secondary characters while they were on the island and the real highlight was the epic bromance between Kyle and Dale. The chill California dude and the minivan-driving nerd delivered so many laughs.
 
While I loved Kenzie, this was really Kyle’s story for me. Seeing what happened to Jake through Kyle’s eyes, and how Kyle suffered in the aftermath, was so heartbreaking. And the scenes between the two brothers in the end, giving voice to things that they’d kept silent about for years, definitely had the tears flowing.
 
This is one of those series that has me wondering why it’s not more well-known and why more people aren’t talking about it. Bengtsson created characters that feel utterly realistic, and while their situations may not be commonplace, their reactions and their attempts to get by the best that they can are completely understandable and relatable. She shows that while love can help heal, it’s not a magic cure that can fix all wounds. It’s also worth noting that the audio versions are perfection and Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber (and Joe Arden in the first book) turn the words on the page into a listening experience that made me feel every laugh, every cry, and everything in between.



YOU CAN FIND THE THEORY OF SECOND BEST HERE:

25 comments

  1. I actually love reality tv, so that aspect really appeals to me!

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    1. You'd probably love their time on the island then. :)

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  2. I only like certain types of reality shows. I love the competition aspects, but hate when they highlight drama. *eye roll* I am impressed with all the praises you have for these book. The author must do a great job, because these are some long contemporary books (526 pages, wow!)

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    1. This was pretty low on the drama aspect of the reality show, which is probably why it worked for me.

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  3. I wondered why this series doesn't get more love, too. I am happy you felt the same way about the reality aspect as I did.

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  4. I still haven't read read these although I have them on my kindle... One day. I guess my issue is that I love the sound of so many contemporary novels but my mood is very much UF/Fantasy these days. It'll switch back - it always does - but until then I need to accept it'll be occasional Contemporary reads only. *sigh*

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    1. One of these when you're back in a contemporary mood, maybe this series will work for you then. :)

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  5. It is strange that this series has flown under the radar. It sounds like a wonderful series that has been around for a while, but I had never heard of it before reading your review for the first book.

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    1. I can't even remember how I first came across it. But I bought the Audible version of the first book ages ago and it languished in my Audible library for far too long before I finally listened to it last year.

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  6. I have never heard of this series, but I'm so curious now after reading your review. I love watching reality TV but don't care for it in books, but you've still got me interested. I love that we see such a strong brotherly bond. I'll have to look this up!

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    1. This series is such a hit for me! I'm on the fifth book now and I don't want to say goodbye to this amazing family. :)

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  7. I read Cake forever ago, but never moved on to the second book. I don't know why, though, because I really enjoyed Cake. Now I'll need to reread Cake and finish it!

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    1. Cake was one of those books that made such an impact on me. It's still me favorite of the series, but I've loved them all. I'm currently reading book #5. :)

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    2. Oh, wow! I had no idea there were that many books in the series!

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  8. Must make note of this series. Love Andi Arndt, Zachary Webber (Tammara Webber's son!), and Joe Arden as narrators!

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    1. They are all some of my faves... especially Andi And Zachary! I've loved everything I've heard from Andi and Zachary's voice is just amazing.

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  9. I really love the sound of this book. And I've been wanting to read the first book too. So I just ordered the first book on Amazon. :D:D

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    1. That's great, Maureen! I hope you'll love it as much as I did! :)

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  10. I have a copy of the audio of the first book and still need to read it. I am definitely going to make sure that I do so soon. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one.

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    1. I've gone the audio route for the whole series and they're done so well.

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  11. Wow that seems really a heartbreaking one with their confessions!

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  12. I love characters that portray one thing to the world but then when you get to know them, you see their pain or wealth of secrets they keep hidden. Kyle sounds like someone I would fall SO hard for! And I loved reality shows in my 20s, this sounds so good!
    Jen @ Star-Crossed Book Blog

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    1. Kyle was such a good guy. Outwardly easy going and the good time guy, but inwardly really struggling and dealing with a lot.

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