May 19, 2012

Review: Playing Hurt

By: Holly Schindler
Published: March 2011 by Flux
Format: Paperback, 303 pages
First Reviewed: April 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

I could almost remember what it felt like to be whole again. Unbroken.

Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration back home. Then she took a horrible fall during senior year. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
That summer, Chelsea's dad hires Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player and "boot camp" trainer, to work with her at a northern Minnesota lake resort. As they grow close, Chelsea finds that Clint's haunted by his own tragedy. Will their romance end up hurting them all over again—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Rating: 3.5/5

Having heard fantastic reviews on this book, I moved it up on my to-read list, even past Holly Schindler's first novel, A Blue So Dark, which I will be reading soon. Let me say that while I have a few things I didn't care for in this, the book did not disappoint.

First, the initial setting is Missouri, which is my neighbor, and I'm semi-familiar with the area, so that was pretty cool. Then we're transferred to Minnesota. Normally, books where we're shipped off some where for the summer, I'd label as cliche, but Schindler did a great job creating a setting that's both original yet engaging at the same time.

All characters had realistic personalities, and felt as though they could really exist in the world. Schindler handled these broken characters very well, I thought, and I was glad that she made them older teens; they're eighteen and nineteen years old. I mean, eighteen to twenty-one still is young adult, so where are my older young adults?! Come on, YA! Anyway, both main characters were believable and likable, though sometimes I wanted either more from them emotionally or felt their inner dialogue was over-the-top in areas. But, considering this is a dual narrative, both had great, solid voices. I think the only character that bothered me the most was Chelsea. Not always, of course, because she is a well-developed character and her brokenness was very realistic, but sometimes I honestly wanted to smack her for her choices.

Schindler has fantastic writing skills. Honestly, I've been sitting here trying to think of anything that bothered me stylistically with the writing, but I can't think of anything. Wait, yes I can. She used italics way too much. Okay, but other than that, there's nothing. With the books I've read lately, I'd forgotten how beautiful prose can be without the laziness of unneeded adverbs. Descriptions were done in such a way that made you visualize without stopping the story to do so, dialogue was balanced well with prose, and she managed to write a successful dual narrative. The emotions was the only area I wished Schindler would have pushed more. Sometimes emotions felt cut short from scenes. She would start and it would seem like a scene would be able to make you cry, but then she'd stop.

If it weren't for a section past the middle of the book, this could have easily won five stars for me. The first half, I loved. I was interested in both lives, their brokenness, and how they were going to overcome it. The ending was just as good. Where my problem rests is with the romance in the middle. Initially it seemed realistic, sometimes a bit over-the-top like you'd see in a commercial paranormal book, but overall solid, but then once we actually got to the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, it took a turn toward unrealistic. I was hoping for more of the "helping each other become whole again" rather than "we just need each other's bodies," if that makes sense. However, the story itself was a great one. I read this straight through and very much enjoyed it.

One dislike, and it's kind of a spoiler (I mean, unless you didn't read the description): I didn't like the way Chelsea treated Gabe. I'll leave it there and let you decide.

This book was very close to a five-starrer. If it weren't for the rushed romance that border-lined on unrealistic toward the middle, it would have earned it. This is definitely worth the read, and Schindler's writing is great, which makes me excited to read her other novel. And just a warning, things do get a bit heated in this, sexual-wise, with both thoughts, dialogue, and action. But I made it through all right, so it must not be too bad. :)

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