- Plot- or character-driven? A mix
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? Yes
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
I really liked this book even though it is based on a sport I never thought twice about: tennis. The way that Reid wrote the tennis matches and the tennis rules was extremely engaging even if I did forget some of the rules sometimes. The tennis aspect was kept as a constant focus and was well used as a means of facilitating the larger themes and developments of the story, something that reminiscing on Malibu Rising, cannot really be said as if my memory serves me right, the surfing aspect of the book became less critical as the book went on and the party started. I also really liked the return of news articles and interview/talk show transcripts which we last saw that type of documenting format in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which allowed for there to not only be breaks in the story but also see the larger world's view on the current events and state of tennis.
Something that I also found quite strong was the themes of the book and its characters. The discussion on the difficulties faced by women and people of colour in sports in the past such as when this book is set (E.g. the mid-1990s) and even now was remarkably interesting and is a very topical discussion now and in my opinion is dealt with very well. It expertly highlighted these issues as well as those affected by these issues and how they must hide their anger with this system to appear their absolute best for the public eye. The book has a very focused look on a few characters rather than having a wide stretching one allowing for the story to feel much more intimate as we only really focus on Carrie, Javier (A standout in this book to me due to how willing he was to train his daughter and not be jealous at her success and actually understand her better than she did herself - their relationship and father/daughter bond was probably the best-written part of this book), Bowe, Nicki, and Gwen.
Carrie has to be one of my favourite protagonists that I've read about in a long time, not only does she have the fiery attitude that many of TJR's female protagonists have but she also has incredible character development. She goes from being someone who must win every single game she plays even if it means coming off as an awful person to the public and those that she cares about to being someone who still wants to win but also recognises that losing is not the be all end all of the situations and that it is the journey and the game itself that is the most important part of it all. I also really liked how Carrie developed emotionally as well going from being perceived as cold and remorseless to being someone who gives genuine thanks and appreciation to those who help her and even respect to those she is facing off against.
Graphic: Death, Sexism, Grief, Death of parent, and Misogyny
Moderate: Medical content, Cancer, Death of parent, Racism, Cursing, Injury/Injury detail, Death, and Grief
Minor: Alcohol, Addiction, Bullying, Homophobia, Lesbophobia, Sexual content, and Infidelity