*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: misogyny, sexism, ageism, loss of a loved one, mention of racism, alcoholism and injuries
Carrie Soto Is Back is my new favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Honestly, this came as a complete surprise to me, but I was riveted from start to finish. I just couldn’t put it down. I never realized how much Spanish I actually understood or how much information I retained from watching tennis a lot when I was a kid, but this book was an utter delight – although I think it will work for people without any knowledge about the sport just as well.
Carrie Soto doesn’t start out as the most likable person, especially if you might harbor some resentment from Malibu Rising still, but she is a force to be reckoned with. She made tennis her entire life and when she decides to return from retirement, she is faced with relentless ageism, misogyny, sexism and just straight hostility. She never played the sport to make friends, she played it to be great and it swiftly became clear to me that there was no way I wouldn’t root for her to succeed once more.
Told from a first person POV for the most part, sprinkled with transcripts of news articles or sports commentators, you don’t just get to see the Carrie Soto the world thought they knew, but also the lonely and vulnerable person behind the tough facade. TJR just has a gift of creating very flawed characters, which you end up falling in love with regardless. They learn from their mistakes, they grow and you want nothing more for them than to get what they truly need.
While the story spans over decades, it never felt rushed or difficult to follow. We get training montages and certain scenes that make us understand what an incredible tennis player Carrie is, but I think most people will show up for the relationships she manages to cultivate over the course of the novel. Carrie has enemies and frenemies, but ultimately a very limited amount of people who really matter in her life. She was blessed with a wonderful love interest, but more importantly, there is a beautiful exploration of a father-daughter-relationship in Carrie Soto Is Back. Javier Soto is a legend in his own right and they weren’t always on the best terms, he sometimes messed up as a father, but he was there when it counted. Those two really were the heart of the story.
I don’t think this review does justice to just how invested I was in Carrie Soto’s life and success, which doesn’t necessarily look like what you would expect it to. My heart was thundering in my chest at every game she played. I was worried for her mental and physical health, while I also believed that she could do anything she set her mind to. I wanted her to open her heart to love, yet never relent to the people who told her she needed to be softer, kinder or more gracious. I wanted her to prove the entire world wrong and she. did. not. disappoint. I’m so grateful to have been on this journey with her.
Fazit: 5/5 stars! Fantastic and riveting!
P.S.: Yes, there are references to the likes of Daisy Jones and the Rivas. I just love the interconnectedness of these books.