posted at Friday, May 1st, 2015 at 8:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Play On by Michelle Smith
Series: Lewis Creek #1
Published by Spencer Hill on April 21, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.
Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius; she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek -- he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.
As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa’s pain, it forces him to look beyond the façade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything—maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.
Dahlia Adler (author of Under the Lights among others) recommended Play On to me, and, after a string of successful recommendations, I trusted her implicitly. She even went so far as to help hook me up with an ARC, which was super sweet of her and the author. To be honest, though, I feared for a few chapters that this would be one of those awkward times where I have to confess that the book just was not my slice of fresh baked apple pie. At the outset, I struggled with the dialect, but ultimately the wonderful messages and adorable romances made Play On a book that I’ll happily endeavor to push on all of you.
Here’s my confession: I’m a born and bred southern girl who doesn’t like southern stuff. Now, the thing is that Atlanta’s sort of a little northern oasis in the middle of the south. There are southern things about Atlanta, but I rarely meet anyone with any sort of strong southern accent and, generally, the ones I do meet moved from elsewhere in the south. Play On is chock full of cute little southernisms that, charming as they will be for most readers, threw me out of the book every damn time. Every dropped g, “momma”, and “ain’t” makes me twitch and pulls me back away from the story. Southern dialect makes it very difficult for me to enjoy books, and Play On‘s just dipped in southernness. That’s going to be a huge strength or weakness, depending on what you’re into.
The first person narrator is Austin Braxton, the star pitcher in Lewis Creek, a town where baseball is a huge deal. Though Braxton is basically the human embodiment of “aw, shucks, ma’am,” and I couldn’t stop picturing him as a young Matthew McConnaughey, he’s a really good guy. What I like is that he’s not misunderstood, he’s not an outcast, he’s not a womanizer, and he’s not a saint. Braxton is popular, single by choice after a relationship that didn’t work out, and admitted Momma’s boy.
My favorite thing about Braxton as a male narrator is that he has a lot of emotions. Pop culture and society often try to convince people that men do not have feelings, because those are women’s weeds or some shit. Braxton tries to keep most of his feelings from showing too much on the surface, but he’s a huge cheeseball and he lets quite a bit of that show. I like that he falls in love first, and he has to fight the urge to tell her. Play On is one of the cases where I think it’s instalove but the kind that really works, because, though he feels it, they still take the time to get to know one another. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sweet, good ol’ boy Braxton doesn’t think he’s smart, and he’s been ordered to find a tutor for chemistry or he won’t get to be on the team. Enter gorgeous, intelligent Marisa, new in town and newly hired to work for his Momma’s flower shop, where Braxton also works. The two click immediately, despite Braxton’s inability to put a logical sentence together around her for the first couple meetings. Marisa also happens to be a whiz at chemistry.
The two form a quick connection and work up a nice banter. I adore the fact that she calls him Floral Prince and that Braxton’s the kind of guy who doesn’t mind that. Everything goes really smoothly except that Marisa’s hesitant to go from friends to something more, due to something in her past.
It turns out that Marisa is suffering from depression. What stood out for me in Play On was getting to see Marisa as this bubbly, bantery, happy person and then watch her crash down into the scary place. Smith really went there, and I think Play On serves as a great reminder that depression isn’t just sadness and that it’s not something that’s going to be constantly apparent. What I like, both about Braxton’s struggles with school and Marisa’s depression, is that they support one another, but they do not fix one another. The treatment of mental health in Play On is top notch, and we get to see how important meds, therapy, and support all are, and that, even with those, that’s not going to fix things.
My very favorite part of Play On though is the gay couple, Jay and Brett. I love love love them, and their arc made me choke up there at the end. Sure, they’re not the main characters, but it felt like their romance got almost as much coverage as Braxton and Marisa’s, even though we were in Braxton’s head. They are the cutest and it only makes Braxton more endearing that he totally ships it.
You know, when I started writing this review, I was going to go 3.5 stars, but the more I think about Play On, the more impressed I am. For those of you who love contemporary novels and don’t mind some southern charm, Play On will hit it out of the park.
I shoot straight up and snatch the phone. My body must have been ready for her. For her texts, I mean.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: