Dear R.S. Grey:
Maybe it’s timing–a soccer book during the World Cup–but I enjoyed this light hearted romp through the soccer fields and sheets featuring University of Los Angeles freshman soccer recruit Kinsley and her volunteer coach, Liam Wilder of the LA Stars.
Some of it was credible, some of it wasn’t very believable, and the writing isn’t going to win many awards. But it was entertaining.
Kinsley is one of the top high school recruits in the country and she selected ULA in part because the coach of ULA was the assistant coach for the Women’s Olympic team for the past three games. It was almost refreshing to hear Kinsley say she couldn’t care less about college, she was there for soccer because a top athlete whose goal is to get into the Olympics probably has to have that on the forefront of her mind at all times. Part of the problem of Kinsley as an Olympic hopeful is that she spends a lot of her time getting drunk and partying which seemed more like a typical freshman thing to do rather than someone who was going to be trying out for a spot on the US Olympic soccer team.
Yet there were several scenes that involved her training and practicing and several scenes that involved intense hazing by the captain of the ULA soccer team. The captain, Tara, was portrayed as the stereotypical evil woman who doesn’t care anything about the team but does enjoy tormenting Kinsley. Worse Tara’s actions are driven by professional jealousy but because she was spurned by Liam Wilder.
What I did find refreshing was the heroine’s brash self-confidence. She was a star athlete, talked about by major news outlets (although really? a female soccer recruit getting airtime from ESPN? Not unless it is Olympic time). I didn’t have a problem, as some reviewers did, that she liked her body and thought she was pretty.
Liam Wilder is volunteering in the mornings with the ULA team in order to help increase his cachet with sponsors. Apparently they are distressed that Wilder is seen dating too many models at the age of twenty-five. Again even with the internal Tiger Woods reference, I had a hard time buying this. What did make sense was the teacher/student forbidden air that was lent by Liam being a coach and Kinsley being a player. That conflict felt genuine.
What was interesting and different was that Liam didn’t do much to hide his interest and neither of the two played games with each other. They both acknowledged the forbidden nature of their relationship; they both struggled with it; yet they both wanted to be together. Most of the conflict, in fact, is external.
Kinsley’s friendship with Becca, a dirty mouthed virgin who wore footy pajamas, was both endearing and funny. The exchanges between the two had me laughing.
“You can’t keep walking like that or people are going to think your massage had a happy ending. Does it still hurt?” Becca asked.
“No, it just feels so… weird, like something shouldbe there. I feel like those smooth lanes at bowling alleys.”
Becca shot me a disgusted face. “Oh my god, that’s sick. Stop picturing your vagina as a dirty bowling alley.”
What I didn’t like? The paparazzi following the college/high school soccer player. Liam losing endorsements because he had a tendency to date around. The age! She was nineteen and Liam was twenty-five. They just were so young for the storyline, particularly the depth of the feelings they had for each other.
I enjoyed the lack of misunderstandings but the use of potential ones for conflict. I liked Liam and Kinsley as a couple who dated and whose every encounter didn’t have to end with them having sex. While there wa “insta lust” it wasn’t acted on. The slower pace of the consummation made their connection seem less about sex and more about shared interests.
The heroine has a tattoo on her body that says something something “because she could” and I felt that authorial license was taken several places “because she could.” So what the nineteen year old was better than anyone else on the field including Tara, also an Olympic hopeful? Who cares that she is profiled by ESPN, mentioned by a late night talk show host, and stalked by the paparazzi? I’ve yet to see many covers on the tabloids featuring nineteen year old soccer stars, but if we didn’t having stalking paparazzi where would the conflict arise?
The story’s positive features outweighed its negative ones. It’s not great example of craft but it was entertaining, had some funny lines, a believable romance, and a timely setting. C+