Monday, August 29, 2016

Game On by Michelle Smith

Game On
by Michelle Smith
Read: August 19 - 24, 2016
Published: August 16, 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark
Source: NetGalley (thank you, Bloomsbury!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Baseball, Romance, 

Series: Book 2 in a companion series
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 

Book Description: As king of baseball in the small town of Lewis Creek, Eric Perry can have any girl he wants and win every game he plays. But when a fight lands him in jail, he’s only got one more strike before his baseball career is over for good. His only chance for redemption? The girl next door, Bri Johnson.

Bri hasn’t talked to Eric in months—for starters, she’s been too busy dealing with her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, not to mention the fact that Eric’s been preoccupied trying to drink every keg in the country dry. But when he needs a way to stay on the team, she proposes a plan: if he helps her out with community service, he can stay on the team. At first it’s a nightmare—Eric and Bri stopped being friends years ago, surely that was for a good reason, right? But as volunteering turns to bonding over old memories of first kisses under the stars, they start to have trouble remembering what pushed them apart.

In a town as small as Lewis Creek, nothing stays secret for long and their friendship and romance might mean bad news. But in this final, tumultuous spring before graduation, Eric and Bri are about to realize that nobody’s perfect alone, but they might just be perfect together.

This is a very smart, well-written, thoughtful contemporary, set in a baseball obsessed small town in South Carolina. It's also one of those stories that I can fully agree with how great it is and understand why people love it, while also recognizing that there were some elements that didn't work for me personally. (You all know I am crazy about some things, guys.)

What struck me the most is how complexly both Eric and Bri are drawn, and, despite their differences, how well they work together. Eric is the new starting pitcher on the baseball team and dealing with a lot of anxiety and self doubt from all the pressure that brings. Much of that comes out in negative ways, like excessive drinking and carelessness. Bri, on the other hand, is a focused student who works hard, plays soccer and doesn't get into trouble. Bri is also t
rying to move past her awful, emotionally abusive ex., who won't leave her alone. At first it seems like the deck is stacked against these two finding their way to each other. 

Eric and Bri two have been neighbors for a long time, and though they used to be close, they haven't been in a while. They didn't have a falling out so much as grew apart over time. On the surface, these two do not seem like a good match, but the wonderful thing about this story is seeing everyone - including themselves - be proved wrong about that. I enjoyed watching Eric and Bri begin to connect again, and realize that the best things are sometimes right there in front of you. These two support each other really well: Bri doesn't let Eric get away with his self pity, and over time Eric shows Bri that there are better guys out there. Their relationship builds slowly, as it should, because these two have a lot things they have to work through in their own lives too. 

I am not a huge sports fan and have never lived in that culture so it was really hard for me to see the way Eric got away with everything in the beginning - including a past drunk driving incident. That was nearly a deal breaker for me, and despite his charm, I didn't like him much at first. But this book does clearly show the brokenness of a town like this, and Eric grows up a lot through this story. I also loved Eric's family. He has a great relationship with his parents and they don't let him get away with the things his town does. 

I'm not a fan of the player guy, and Eric is a big one of those at first, even if a lot of it is self coping for him. This author does a great job at explaining the reasons behind these character's behaviors, which I appreciated a lot. But I was still uncomfortable with that aspect of him. Bri is still dating Matt when the book begins and it was hard to see her still into him, despite his obviously terrible behavior towards her. That ends quickly, however, and I think it was important to see her get out of that abusive relationship, despite how hard it was to watch. I was expecting this book to focus most on the romance between Eric and Bri. I didn't realize how heavy this book would get with their own personal issues, and while that makes it stronger and more complex, it also made it harder to read in places. 

Michelle Smith is definitely a contemporary writer to watch! I haven't read Play On yet and really want to try it after this. Despite some small elements, I liked this author's writing a lot and have heard great things about the first in this series. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild - If you're interested, I go into more specifics under a spoiler tag in my Goodreads review

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone companion


  1. Awesome review Lauren :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this one. <3 I'm sorry it wasn't all that awesome :\ But yay for enjoying most of it :D Not a book for me at all.. but it do look sort of cute :)

  2. Great review! I don't love heavy contemporaries so that does make me pause but the characters and the way their relationship unfolds sounds like a good story. Adding this to my TBR!


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