Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favourite authors. I don’t think it’s in the cards for me this year, but I would like to complete her entire bibliography by the end of next year. And now that I’ve put it in writing…it must happen! Her latest, Carrie Soto is Back, is about a fictional tennis player in the ’90s who comes out of retirement in her late 30s to show the world that she’s still got it. I love how Jenkins Reid writes fictional historical characters (like Daisy Jones and the Six and Evelyn Hugo), so I was very excited to see where this tennis start would take us.
Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.
But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.
At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.
In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season.
It came as no surprise to me that I absolutely loved this story. It felt like Jenkins Reid was writing about an actual tennis player considering all the detail she put into the supporting players and their various rankings. I’m not a tennis pro, but I am glad I had some prior knowledge of the sport because it does get a little technical when she’s describing actual games (though the details don’t often go on for long), which to me made the whole thing feel even more real.
Carrie Soto is not your typical loveable “celebrity.” She broke many records and paved the way for women in sports (fictionally, of course), but she wasn’t likeable. She was guarded and didn’t show emotion; we understood why from the beginning. I loved watching her father and her sparring partner Bowe slowly break down her walls and have her transform throughout the arc of the book. I could picture the secondary characters like Javier, Bowe, and Gwen in my head like they were real people.
I loved the relationship between Carrie and her father, Javier. As much as this is her story, it’s his story and legacy, too, and to watch them grow together—even when they were apart—was heartwarming. I also loved that this talked about women kicking ass when they are “past their prime” and dominating after they’ve been told they can’t do something. It was very powerful. Plus, some Easter eggs from some of her previous novels are an added bonus for Jenkins Reid fans.
The only criticism I have is that, as far as I know, the author isn’t Latinx, so for her to write a Latinx character felt a little odd to me. I love that she’s using her platform to try and spotlight minorities, but part of me feels like she should be boosting minority voices and writers instead and letting those voices speak for themselves. But as a white woman, it might not be my place to comment.
If you are a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid, a tennis lover or even historical fiction (more contemporary, of course), you will love Carrie Soto is Back. It’s a great story to make yourself, and the women in your life feel empowered to kick butt and rise to the top.
“We live in a world where exceptional women have to sit around waiting for mediocre men.” —Taylor Jenkins Reid, Carrie Soto Is Back
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the advanced copy and Valentin Balan on Unsplash for the featured photo.
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