A review of Best Bet by Laura Pedersen

Reviewed by Sara Hodon

Best bet
by Laura Pedersen
Paperback: 320 pages, November 23, 2009, ISBN-13: 978-1440170171

Laura Pedersen bids a fond farewell to teenage cardsharp Hallie Palmer in Best Bet, the fourth installment of the series featuring the poker-playing, streetwise tomboy with a flair for landscaping.

The final book about Hallie finds her about to graduate from college and a bit panicky at the thought of what comes next. As it turns out, she gets the chance to delay the real world a bit when she learns that her college advisor’s mistake has caused her to come up a bit short, credit-wise. She has no choice but to decline the job offer she received and try to find a quick and painless solution. Enter good friend Josh, who has signed up for a college-sponsored research project led by a member of the faculty and convinces Hallie this could be her way out of her graduation problem. Although it sounds like a dream come true—travel around the world for four months, participate in a sociological experiment, and earn the necessary credits—she’s reluctant. Will her relationship with her longtime boyfriend Craig withstand her globe-trotting adventure?

Pedersen revisits a character who has many of the same insecurities and dilemmas as the rest of us. Hallie is in that awkward, post-college stage—trying to cope with the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood as best she can, while admitting that she’s not ready for any of it! Pedersen does an admirable job of writing Hallie as a young woman as flawed as any of us—she doesn’t pretend to have her life figured out, she questions her relationship to Craig throughout most of the book until she has that “aha!” moment that clarifies everything, and she’s unsure of a career path for most of the book, as well. Like many young women, Hallie thinks the trip around the world will help her to clarify some lingering issues, but when she comes home, the answers aren’t any clearer.

Hallie seems to have outgrown her days as a teenage gambler. Pedersen only includes a few scenes that show off Hallie’s card-playing skills, and even then, Hallie participates reluctantly but with good reason—she has to win back the group’s trip money another classmate lost in gambling online! Beyond this, Pedersen focuses Hallie’s character on figuring herself out and looking toward the future. She has some help along the way in the form of her large family (Hallie is one of 10 kids) and eccentric friends the Stocktons, whose outspoken, outrageous members add some color to the story.

Best Bet is a great read for fans of Pedersen’s earlier books about Hallie Palmer, and new readers may want to check out the other books to see what they’ve missed.

About the reviewer: Sara Hodon’s work has appeared in History, Young Money, WritersWeekly.com, and The Valley: Lebanon Valley College’s Magazine, among others. She is also the “Date and Relate” columnist for Online Dating Magazine (www.onlinedatingmagazine.com). Read more about her trials and triumphs in the writing life on her blog, http://adventuresinthewritinglife.blogspot.com