Book Reviews, Fiction, Women's Fiction

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Shayla, why are you reading a book about tennis, of all things? Because Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote it, and though I have never read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I’ve heard great things about her work.

Read on…

So. Tennis and the Taylor Jenkins Reid universe. I didn’t know going in, but Taylor Jenkins Reid apparently has a habit of infusing her characters into various books, with little cameo side appearances. As such, Carrie Soto, tennis champ, was a side character in Malibu Rising, which is a fun detail that has no bearing on whether or not this book is readable (though I do want to read more from Jenkins Reid now!). 

It’s the 90s (again, because the ’90s are popular in literature right now, I guess), and Carrie Soto is one of the legendary greats. She’s also retired, having gone out on top with twenty Grand Slam wins (that’s a big deal in tennis, I learned). 

She’s not exactly popular, thanks to what she sees as determination, sacrifice, self-protection, and what the world sees as snobbery and a willingness to win at any cost. Also, she’s a Latina athlete in the ’90s, and sexism and racism abound to the point that a hot mic broadcasts a sports commentator calling Carrie a bitch, live on TV.

Book cover for Carrie Soto is Back.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The commentator calls Carrie a bitch ultimately because, when a flashy, young player threatens her record, Carrie gets the ridiculous notion that she has to come out of retirement or confront the self-inflicted humiliation of not being The Very Best anymore.

But, of course, her father-slash-tennis-coach Javier doesn’t help dispel that notion. He practically trained her to be a tennis robot from birth. Javier is itching to get Carrie back on the courts.

Will Carrie reclaim her title? Will she learn some lessons about humility along the way? Will she remain insufferable? 

I’ll tell you the answer to the third question: yes. Carrie Soto is insufferable and not a sympathetic character in the least. That may be a broader comment on how we treat determined women, but Carrie is equally unbearable in the privacy of her brain and her motivations. Nevertheless, I still wanted to know how things turned out for her.

Obviously, this book is very much ALL ABOUT TENNIS. I know nothing about tennis, but again, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything — the sports descriptions are detailed, perhaps even a little more than they need to be. Tennis is almost a character itself. 

As for the other characters, including insufferable Carrie, they are all well-written, even if the plot is a bit basic and predictable. Nevertheless, Carrie Soto is Back is a fast read, and the big question is — will Carrie reclaim her glory? — is batted back and forth just like a tennis ball. 

I did have to spend some time figuring out the Spanish sprinkled into the dialogue, which took me out of the reading experience a bit.

I think people will enjoy this character-driven, nostalgic-for-the-90s, glitzy backstage pass type of book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.