5 Hearts · YA Contemporary

Pep Talks By Ali Dean 



(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 amongst 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.

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Okay, so I just finished reading the 4th book in the Pepper Jones Series. I have to say there were many things that surprised me. Now I will put my disclaimer in now.

1. I got an ARC copy from the author in PDF form that was still in the final stages of editing. So there were some mistakes I found, but usually there is no problems.

2. I am going to mention spoilers, so if you haven’t read it yet and plan to, don’t read on till you have finished the book.

Here is the deal. Ali jumped about 8 to 9 months in the story. We don’t get anything from Pepper’s finally few months as a senior at Brockton. We are told things that happened, but it wasn’t the same. She and Jace are still together and they are going strong. The book begins with UC sports preseason. Some of the character’s from the last book that we were introduced to return: Clayton, Lexi, and Frankie. Pep Talks (Pepper Jones Book 4)

This is my Jace. That deep pensive look. Oh yeah.


Pepper is living on campus in the dorms that are for athletes at UC. Jace moved off campus with Frankie into an apartment. Things are all hunky-dory. 
 Some Spoilers Ahead. 

Now let us bring up Jace’s mom, ANNIE! Let me tell you, I was right there with Pepper feeling Annie was going to be a problem. Load-and-behold she became the straw that broke the camel’s back. Annie once again leaves Jace with no word. Just Poof, gone.  A few weeks later she even calls Jace and ask for money to get her out of jail in California. Which he doesn’t do, THANK GOODNESS!

So Jace falls apart. He begins pushing everyone away. He distances himself from Pepper especially. He pushed her so far that he ends up breaking-up with her. During this time, Pepper goes to see Gran (Bunny) and finds her fallen in the bathroom. She broke her hip. Pepper falls apart and she stops eating. Her teammates get on her because she is losing too much weight to fast. With all the stress, she keeps trying to reach out to Jace, but he is purposely trying to make Pepper hate him. There are a few chapters that we are told Jace’s point-of-view. He still loves pepper, but doesn’t feel as if he deserves her. It ends a few months into second semester, with Jace trying to apologize to Pepper. She doesn’t accept it,  she chews him out and leaves.  She promising herself she will move on.


What I think Pepper Jones looks like.

I am glad that we got some personal drama between these two. They always seem like the perfect couple. They have had so many external forces trying to separate them, but instead in this book they self-implode. We know Jace has baggage with his mom abandoning him; and, his dad having an affair which leads to Wes and Jace being brothers. It seems like he has conquered all that because he has Pepper in his life, but when he begins to fall apart, he pushes the one good thing in his life away. He says, “That girl is my light, my center. Like gravity, she keeps me grounded” (Chapter 11). I love that. I love that we finally get to see inside Jace’s head. I want to know more about this darkness he talks about. I wonder if he has more baggage then Pepper or anyone else really knows.Ali Dean added more layers and depth to Pepper and Jace. We are now dealing with severer issues between these two and others around them. Eating disorders, abandonment, anger, and depression.


One thing I really liked was Pepper coming into her own. She is learning how to be her own person. Away from Jace and Bunny. Someone she can be proud to look back at in the mirror. What Pepper says at the end shows the growth she has made.

“I wonder what my happily-ever-after looks like now. If this is it – running my heart out every day with my teammates and laughing, dancing, and eating with them afterward – it’s one I can embrace without regrets” (Chapter 25).

Don’t fret friends, Ali Dean is going to release the 5th and final book coming this fall.  This was originally going to be two, but she has changed her mind and has decided that everything can fit into one book. 

It is not my favorite book out of the series, because I am sad they are not together, but it was needed. I still give it a 5 star rating.


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