Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
Number of pages: 312
My copy: paperback, passed on from the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour
Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college — and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels
like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
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When my good friend Kai asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Playing Hurt Philippine Blog Tour, I said yes because she told me that the book for the tour is a contemporary YA novel. It’s no secret that my first love for YA is contemporary, so a chance to read a new one from a highly-praised author is something that I won’t say no to.
In Playing Hurt, Chelsea Keyes is a basketball star in Fair Grove High School, up until her last game when a court accident finally made her hip give way, stopping her from playing the rest of the season. Fearful and broken with the metal plate on her hip in mind, she retreated to herself and her family, only relying on her romantic and supportive boyfriend Gabe to make her happy. That summer, her dad hires Clint, an ex-hockey player with ghosts of his own as Chelsea’s personal trainer for their 3-week vacation. Chelsea and Clint feel an instant connection the moment they see each other. As they grow closer, Chelsea and Clint wrestle with their own demons, wondering if their relationship will just cause more pain or heal their heartaches.
I jumped into Playing Hurt expecting to like it a lot, especially since I don’t think I’ve read about a jock for a heroine. I’ve also always liked recovering stories, especially those that deal with fear and yes, maybe a little romance. That’s the good thing about contemporary YA — it deals with real things, and I was looking forward to seeing how Chelsea’s story turns out. However, reading Playing Hurt enforces my new found belief that one shouldn’t read another contemporary YA novel immediately after reading a Melina Marchetta one. This causes a little bit of high expectations for the next novel I read regardless of the author. For that, I apologize in advance.
The novel started out pretty good, with Chelsea reliving her last game before her accident. I liked the smooth transition from the video to real life where instead of playing, we see Chelsea watching the game and wondering where her life has gone (you can read it in the excerpt here). I liked Brandon, Chelsea’s brother, even if I can’t shake the fact that he’s younger than his age, and not a high school sophomore. I also liked Gabe very much, with his sweetness and his concern for Chelsea especially after her accident. The initial set up was very good, and it made me want to know what will happen next.
However, the novel lost me the moment Chelsea and Clint met. I cringed at how they described each other as “perfection”, and how the air zinged when they were in the mere presence of the other. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that. Maybe it’s possible, who knows, right? I just don’t really buy it — I want history in my fictional couples. I want banter. I want long conversations that do not involve the one person staring at the other and wondering if their knees “…as pink as the wads of cotton candy…” are just as sweet. Sorry, I can’t help but roll my eyes at that. I want the whole shebang — the getting to know stage, the simmering attraction that would eventually lead to the swoon-worthy, tingle-inducing scenes that would make me sigh and doodle hearts in every available space. I think this preference is obvious based on my track record for contemporary novels that I love.
I also wished that Chelsea’s other relationships had more resolution, especially for her father. I thought there was too much focus on the relationship that the other issues weren’t really tackled. I wished there was more conflict between Chelsea, Clint and Gabe, and that Chelsea and her dad had a longer and more heartfelt conversation. I felt kind of bad for the minor characters, particularly Kenzie, whose stories weren’t really explored because of the focus on Clint and Chelsea. It somehow made the main characters come off as selfish, wanting only what they want and nothing else.
I don’t really think Playing Hurt is a bad novel. I’m a minority among those who loved this book — it’s just okay with me. This novel may just not be up my alley, you know? That, and like what I mentioned up there, reading this after a Marchetta novel (especially something as lovely as Jellicoe Road!) tends to up my expectations. I knew I should have read another genre first before jumping into this one! I’m still open to reading Holly Schindler’s other books.
Watch out tomorrow for an interview with Holly Schindler as part of the blog tour! Thanks to Kai of Amaterasu Reads for hosting this tour!