Head Games by Keri Mikulski

Publisher: Razorbill (January 6, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

Ooh, pretty cover but, wait, why is that girl sitting on a basketball? Is this book about a girl basketball player? Another one? Didn’t I just read this book two weeks ago? I didn’t buy it again right because hubby is starting to get maaad about all these $9.99 charges from Amazon–oh whew, it’s not the same book at all. No arguing in the I Love YA Fiction house tonight. Thank god!


Taylor Thomas is the star player of Beachwood Academy’s female basketball team–she ought to be as she’s well over 6 feet tall. Since she has such a height advantage, she is constantly perfecting her skills and does little else beyond school, hanging with her bf, Hannah, and basketball. Her dad is one of those overly pushy types who is always at her to practice, practice, practice and she does. All of the time. When her longtime crush and co-captain of the boys’ team, Zach Murphy, becomes single and begins to show an interest in her, Taylor thinks she might finally have a chance at love. It’s been hard up until this point as Zach’s the only one who isn’t shorter than she is and he’s always in a relationship. But as she tentatively begins seeing Zach, Taylor is pulled in a million directions: the team wants her to lay off guys so they can focus all their energy on practicing and winning the championship; Hannah needs a model for the school amateur fashion show; other friends need tutoring help; her dad is harping at her to practice even more; her mother, a former teen actress, has gone AWOL, always auditioning or sleeping in her room; and her English partner, Matt Moore, is starting to seem like he might mean more to her than she thought, even though he is much shorter. Taylor feels overwhelmed with all the demands placed on her and eventually must choose between what is important to her as opposed to what is important to everyone else in her life.


As Ellen has pointed out, I have a…let’s call it, an aversion to girls’ sports books. Don’t get me wrong: they’re a perfectly acceptable form of YA fiction and I like them, I just don’t understand the whole genre. Girls and sports. Why does it have to be such a big deal? A girl can play sports without it taking over her life. But in most of the girls’ sports books, that’s exactly what happens. Girl finds sport, sport becomes the reason for her existence, and then something happens so that she might not be able to do the sport in the future and a whole bunch of drama ensues. If you just inserted the name Edward in place of the word “sport”, you would have the plot of Twilight. Now this book was promising. The heroine, Taylor, started out being pretty kick ass in a really determined and focused way. The energy and drive she brought to her game was amazing for someone so young. But then we see her and her interactions with Zach and let me tell you, she is one hot mess. People, I wanted to reach my hand down into that book and smack that girl. Off the court, Taylor became a spineless, shy, introverted creature who couldn’t stand up for herself. And we’re not talking just about the interactions she had with Zach. Oh no, this is interactions with ALL human beings. When Zach’s ex-girlfriend accuses Taylor of cheating with him before their breakup, Taylor just mumbles an apology at her and tries to placate her. Please!!!! She didn’t do anything with Zach until after they had broken up. But she can never say it and that made me want to scream. Just stick up for yourself, you spineless thing! When people accuse Taylor of sabotaging the girls’ basketball team’s chances of winning a championship, she again just mumbles an apology. Maybe what she should have done was tell everyone to back off because she was so overworked that she was only hanging by a thread. But no. That seems to be too much effort for Taylor. She has to allow herself to be browbeaten by every single person around her because she doesn’t have the cajones to tell them no and explain herself. It was like a completely different person on the court and off. That sort of huge discrepancy didn’t sit well with me. I’m telling you, not once was Taylor, the super aggressive basketball fiend, ever able to clearly and coherently formulate phrases that didn’t sound weak and sniveling. This got old so quickly that in the end, I kind of took a certain malicious pleasure in seeing her defeated in yet another conversation. This constant browbeating with no character development until the very, very end, seemed a little lazy of the author. Like instead of developing her character, she just piled on all the horrible interactions she could, each

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one progressively worse than the last, until finally the character could do nothing except explode. That doesn’t mean she’s changed or developed a sense of worth, it just means that at the end of the book we get to see her be a bit aggressive off the court. But it was a little too little too late for me. Plus her whole relationship with Zach seemed just off, even forced. Every time they interacted something was weird about the pacing or dialogue…I can’t put my finger on it. But I could never fully believe that she was actually having a relationship with the guy. Something was just intrinsically wrong. Now her growing relationship with Matt Moore is much more promising (and obviously when you near the end, you see why) and its evolution is really sweet and endearing. The fact that Matt is likened to

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an Abercrombie model, albeit a short one, does not hurt things at all. I should also mention that there’s a sort of sex strike a la Shut Out and a fashion show to distract us from Taylor’s sniveling but their inclusion makes the storyline feel a bit cluttered. That could just be my problem though. I’ve been reading far too many books lately that have zero secondary plots or storylines and as a result, the books have been a bit sparse. This might just seem a bit crowded in comparison!

So based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 6. Taylor’s character seems far too bogged down with everything happening in her life and as a result, her personality gets lost in everything going on around her. Plus she’s so spineless and never sticks up for herself! I hate reading about people getting trampled on over and over and over. Props for being super tall and pretty awesome on the court though.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Matt Moore sounds dreamy. He writes poetry and has a thing for uber tall girls. He looks like an abercrombie model and always wears hoodies. I wish he would come to my neighborhood and start leaving me love notes. Hint hint (too bad he’s fictional and can’t actually get the hint)

How believable is the plot: 10. Being in high school is no cake walk and this book very easily depicts the nightmare of taking on too much, especially when you’re young. Totally believable plot, except for maybe the fashion show. In Nebraska, we never had those. Just cow pageants. And yes I’m serious.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 7. This is well written and believable. My only concern was the weird dialogue and pacing whenever Taylor and Zach were on the page together. It just felt all confused like the author hadn’t thought very far ahead about their relationship and what she had was missing details we needed later on. Otherwise, good dialogue, nice straight forward style, and really easy to read and keep your attention.

How much did I want to keep reading: 4. This is one of those books where you tell the story and when it’s done, there’s nothing else to tell really. It’s over and as a result, I didn’t really care one way or the other about getting more out of it…except for maybe some Taylor-Matt Moore action. We missed out on that!

Final Score: 7.4 / 10 Like yesterday’s review of Why We Broke Up, I’m a little concerned about my math skills. The result seems really high…but no, it’s really a 7.5 on our scale. Huh. Well, I liked it except for whenever Taylor had to interact with others and then I just got annoyed. I’m still going to say read it though because it’s a solid effort that could just use a little tweaking.

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2 thoughts on “Head Games: A PrettyTOUGH Novel by Keri Mikulski

  1. Pingback: It’s…ehh, Tuesday, time for Tuesday Roundup! | I Love YA Fiction

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