Tuesday, August 9, 2011

YA book review: Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Flux (March 8, 2011)

Blurb: Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea's dad springs for a three-week summer "boot camp" program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she's immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who's haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

My review: What I admire so much about today's contemporary authors is their drive and determination to  write thought provoking, touching stories about regular people without glossing over the real stuff in life. Schindler crafts a whopper of a story out of two injured sport stars, one physical, the other mental, and by meeting and working side-by-side one summer they fall in love and begin to help heal each other.

I never thought sports could be so sexy or moving. Chelsea seems like the girl next door or the girl who sits across from you in first period Spanish. On the court she is transformed into a superstar, the one player who can rocket her team, her school, and her town into notoriety. One dropped drink and a persistent pain unfortunately clash during one game. Her accidental misstep sidelines her, ending her basketball dream and distancing her from her father. Clint was a hotshot hockey star but still managed to be a regular guy. The girl he loved drove to see him play in one of his matches, except with bad weather she never made it. His guilt cripples him, forcing himself to turn his back on his other love, hockey, by hanging up his skates forever.

Two teens. Two sports. Two cases of misguided pain and heartbreak. When Chelsea's dad hires Clint to be her trainer during their summer resort vacation, she's livid. Clint just thinks she's hot. Spending time together opens up a door to forgiveness, recovery, and surprisingly, love.

Playing Hurt's Chelsea and Clint are my favorite couple this year. Holly Schindler kept their story and their budding relationship intensely real and believable. Their mutual attraction and final physical commitment was handled with honesty and practicality. I did laugh at some of their scenes where they kept getting interrupted. The author's gorgeous prose expressed by both Chelsea and Clint through their alternating first person viewpoints gave the novel two truly unique and individual voices. I loved her way with metaphors, similes and personification. Her writing has made me view things in a different way.

Though I liked Chelsea's character I found her a bit cold in sections. I believe this may have been intentional as her character eventually learns to drop her guard. Clint was the one I immediately connected with. His tough work ethic, his love of the outdoors, his fierce spirit of independence. Brandon's way of dealing with his emotional baggage and painful memories was to shove them all away--that is until a pretty blonde client makes him rethink about himself. In turn, he helps Chelsea realize her dad never left her--she too turned inward to better deal with painful memories and the pin in her hip. I did feel sorry for her boyfriend and wanted her to better prepare him for what happened, but in a way he was also living in his own world. If my girlfriend kept forgetting to return my calls, I'd think something was up. There was also an interesting array of secondary characters I liked, especially Clint's friends and his mom, and Chelsea's brother, Brandon, and their dad. Playing Hurt is a timeless tale of recovery, trust, learning to believe in one's self again, letting go, and falling in love.

Rating: I loved it.

Favorite excerpt: "This can't be happening, I think I hear Clint mutter when I reach his side.

"Clint--" I say.

"I'll go get Brandon," he tells me, acting like he's got to go inside to find him, like Brandon's not standing in the front window taping the four corners of his poster, his Pink Floyd T-shirt in full view of the street. Clint's trying to pretend his way out of this conversation.

But it makes sense now. I get it. Why he acts the way he does. Why he shakes me away. I want to tell him--it's okay, Clint. I want to convince him. God, we're just alike." (From page 162)

Cover comment: Nothing says summer like water and two bodies stretched across a pier. I really like how we don't see the faces of Chelsea and Clint, this playful mysteriousness of the picture reflects their relationship.

Book source: Library


  1. I have this book at home (on my TBR pile) and I'm really excited for it. I'm glad it's an emotional read. Your favourite couple of 2011? That definitely makes me want to get started on this book straight away. Thanks for the great review!

  2. This sounds like a perfect summer read, emotional, hard at times, but also sweet and fun. And the cover, awesome!

  3. P.E. They're my favorite couple so far (there's 4 more months to go)!

    Heather, I agree. The cover is awesome!

  4. This is one of my favorite books. This is the only book I've thrown because I was angry with the characters and I was screaming at them. But all in a good way. (laughs) Definitely recommend it. And I loved Clint's friends. They're such...guys. Lol