Review: Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

Title:  Playing Hurt

Author:  Holly Schindler

Publisher:  Flux

Series:  None

Other Reviews for This Author:  None

I've heard countless good things about Holly Schindler.  Her debut novel, A Blue So Dark, was highly praised and considered by many to be a great novel in both writing, premise, and characterization.  That's a lot of hype to live up to.  Playing Hurt naturally had some pizazz with its release because of this hype, and a lot of people I knew were excited about it.  Here came me with a no-nothing attitude about sports and no experience with this author.  There was such a risk for me in reading this book, and I'm glad I took it.

All it took was one moment for Chelsea Keyes to have her world cracked.  Slipping on soda - soda of all the stupidest things - and practically ruining her womens basketball career before it had the chance to begin.  Now she sits in her room playing the tape of that fatal game night over and over.  The school year is done.  The season was shitty.  She's a senior without a path and without a place in life.  Her boyfriend Gabe is what holds her together.  His romantic nature seems to have melted her heart.  By the end of the summer they may actually make love for the first time.  Before Chelsea can do anything, though, she has to get herself put back together again.

Two years of loss have left Clint just as strained as Chelsea.  Though he hasn't had a physical barrier from playing hockey, he hasn't had the spirit.  The death of his girlfriend and childhood companion a few years back has caused him to work constantly to forget about things.  He hasn't fallen in love or dated a girl since.  Over the summer and now 19, Clint decides to do a special camp on the side.  A private bootcamp to help athletes get back on their feet.  His summer client turns out to be one former-high school basketball star Chelsea Keyes.

Instant attraction.  Chelsea barely thinks about Gabe when she sees the athletic and quiet Clint.  Clint can barely keep his eyes off of Chelsea, who manages to be alluring and sexy in the simplest shorts and t-shirt.  There's something that these two see in each other that has the makings of a great summer fling.  Fear, anxiety, and fidelity get in the way.  Emotions run high and they learn more about each other than they could ever imagine.  Will Chelsea and Clint come out of the summer a couple, or will Gabe and their own anxiety get in the way of a lasting relationship?

The dual narration makes these characters equally important, and Chelsea is one realistic female protagonist.  She has a lot of biting snark that readers will appreciate.  Her feelings are well-voiced and true to the teenage experience.  Questioning what her relationship with Gabe really is.  Trying to navigate a different kind of feeling with Clint.  Coming back from the panic of her fall and hip injury.  She has so much that is running through her mind, and she voices it in just the right way in that it invokes both sympathy and reassurance that she will somehow get through it.  Her voice reminds me of steel.  No matter how cold things get for Chelsea, she has this urge to tell us things can be managed.  They suck and she thinks they can never pull through, but the implication is that she can manage.  She's a character that doesn't like to give up control and be persuaded by elaborate facades.  We see that by how her response to Gabe early on isn't as starry-eyed as one would expect.  She prefers blunt and understandable.  I loved getting inside of her head because that understanding was such a vital thing between her character and the reader.

Getting to Clint was a little more difficult, but it came with a great reward.  Clint is a lot like Chelsea in his need for understanding.  He likes having something that he can hold on to.  That he can help.  It's a reason why he was so attached to his old girlfriend, and it's a reason why he goes for someone like Chelsea despite having someone else constantly flirting with him.  Chelsea is someone that, for better or worse, he knows.  The common thread between both characters is the sporting anxiety and the need to get past personal problems in order to combat their physical ones.  Clint is more hard-headed and prone to emotional shifts because of what happened to him, but he also turns out to be romantic of his own accord.  There are some great scenes between him and Chelsea, and the romantic response between both of them is exciting and very touching.  Real and raw.  He's the kind of male protagonist that makes you want to jump through the pages and force him to do dirty things to you.  His viewpoint was written well, and kudos to Holly for getting a male voice down without overdoing it.

Schindler's writing is what really put this book over the top.  Every sentence was great.  Every metaphor and dialogue tag worked with the story and the characters.  She understands the flow of a story and it really shines in her work.  There was something about it that made me pause in my reading to breath things in.  Despite the emphasis on sports and sporting injuries, I didn't feel alienated.  The characters didn't act like me or what I want to act like, but they none the less found a way to communicate with me.  The plot didn't feel too rushed.  It was well-developed; like something out of a Sarah Dessen novel.  There is a lot of greatness in the presentation of this story.

This story was just whole.  I found nothing wrong with it technically or personally.  There was a lot of debate regarding the action of cheating, but Holly remained realistic.  It may not make traditional romance readers happy, but it makes me happy with these characters.  High schoolers do this.  High schoolers will relate to Playing Hurt.  If this is how Schindler does a novel, then I have to get my hands on A Blue So Dark soon.  Just marvelous.

Cover:  It's very summer-y and almost undermines the dramatic tension of the book.

Rating:  5.0 reviews

Copy:  Received from Read. Chat. Love. for the Holly Schindler Blog Tour  (Thanks, RCL!)

Connect with Author Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler |Website| |Twitter| |Blog|
YA Outside the Lines (YA group blog)
Smack Dab in the Middle (Middle grade group blog)


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Read Comments


Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

AWww, I never knew that's what this book was about. The cover doesn't tell much about it, huh? THanks for the awesome review!