Playing with the Boys (A PrettyTOUGH Novel)

Author Note: There’s something odd about this one. It seems like the paperback edition is listed as written by Liz Tigelaar (like this photo) but the Kindle edition has Nicole Leigh Shepherd. They’re the same book, I just don’t know which to list as the author.              

Publisher: Razorbill (April 10, 2008)

Format: Kindle

Reviewed By: Ellen

Football, hot guys, a girl playing a “boy” sport – what’s not to love?! Happy Super Bowl Day!

Plot:  After her mother passes away, Lucy’s father decides the two of them need to leave Ohio and move to sunny Malibu, CA. Moving to a new town is never easy and Lucy has a difficult time making friends. Sure there’s Benji, the nice guy from her gym class, but it’s not until Lucy decides to try out for the soccer team that she really begins to form friendships. Then tragedy strikes: Lucy doesn’t make the team. But the soccer coach has an idea: Lucy is the best kicker she’s ever seen + the football team needs a kicker = Lucy should join the football team! While Lucy is hella resistant, the encouragement from her soccer friends and the opportunity to get closer to hottie hot hot quarterback Ryan sway her and she ends up making the team. Unfortunately what follows is a lot of hazing/jerky behavior from most of the team, instant hatred from the head cheerleader, and trying to figure out who her real friends are.

Review: While it’s not the most original plot I still thought the book was cute. I liked Lucy a lot and I thought she was super easy to relate to. I think most people, at some point in their life, have faced the fear of starting over and having to make a new group of friends – trying to fit in while still remembering who you are. I loved the friendship between Lucy and Benji and his football lectures were amusing. Lucy’s dad was also pretty great, it can’t be easy to all of a sudden be a single parent to a teenage girl who is struggling with her new life. Sure he makes mistakes but I never doubted his heart was in the right place.

While the love triangle  has been done to death, what I really appreciated was that neither Benji or Ryan were all great or all bad – I really rooted for both of them. (Although of course the shallow part of me rooted more for Ryan. I can’t help it!) Ryan seems like a great guy who supports Lucy’s place on the team but then he also takes part in hazing her. Benji, who teaches her everything she needs to know about football, is also the backup kicker with an overbearing father whose life would be much easier if he played first string. I think it ended up the only way it could but I liked that neither guy was demonized or sainted along the way.

There were also parts of the book that I didn’t like but know are how things work in real life. Of course Lucy’s father, who just lost his wife, is overprotective and forbids Lucy from joining the football team. Of course Lucy then lies to her dad, claiming she joined the cheerleading squad. And of course, when there’s boy drama, Lucy’s soccer friends side not with her but with someone they’ve known for much longer (even though she was being completely crazypants). Lucy is such a great character it was difficult to read about her facing all these challenges but she handled it all much better than I would. And gave some truly kick ass set downs along the way (especially at the end. Man I wish I could come up with stuff like that when I’m upset!).

In the end I’m going to give this one a 9 out of 10. Super cute and enjoyable. Oh and I should also mention that, way back when we first began this blog, Judith reviewed another PrettyTOUGH novel. I’m not sure if they’re related but figured I should pass that along.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Poor Lucy has to go through so much throughout the book but she never really forgets who she is. She’s smart, can give a searing set down, and is a great athlete. Despite the fact that almost everyone was initially rooting for her to fail she believes in herself enough to rise above the doubts. It was also fun to read about her learning about football after she’s joined the team, rather than other girl-playing-football stories I’ve read where the girl was already a huge fan. Finally, I really loved the lesson she learns throughout the book (with the help of the soccer coach/English teacher): if being friends with someone means you need to lie or be less than your best then that’s probably a not a friendship you want to keep. Why wasn’t this book out when I was a teen?? 

How much did I like the love interest: 9. Both Benji and Ryan were alternately great, awful, supportive, jerky guys. There were points throughout the book when I rooted for both of them, then for neither, then for just one. I liked that at the end Lucy made the choice which was best for her but I honestly would have been happy with whichever guy she ended up with. I did love that Benji was supportive of Lucy and helped her understand football, but I also loved that Ryan was the first person to congratulate her after her awesome tryout. Now I’m wondering if all the books are connected and there’s a story about the other guy? Must investigate.

How believable is the plot:  10. Yeah Lucy played football but she was the kicker, which is totally believable. And let’s be honest – this girl is not 6 feet tall and muscular like Jordan – so I liked that there were consequences to a girl playing with these hulking guys. As for the off-the-field action I thought all the high school drama stuff, and her relationship with her father, were totally believable.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. I saw no issues at all.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Well I stayed up until 3 am reading so I’d say I liked it.

Final Score: 9/10. Not the most original plot and pretty predictable but who cares, it was also completely enjoyable and I’m even going to see if there’s a sequel! That’s high praise indeed in my book.

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