Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid have already met Carrie Soto in Reid’s last novel, “Malibu Rising”—and as the title of this newest release indicates, Carrie is back.
Carrie Soto is an elite tennis player who, in the late 1980s, became the top-ranked tennis player in the world before retiring due to a knee injury. Five years later, emerging tennis star Nicki Chan is on the rise, and she’s on track to break Carrie’s record for most grand slams. At 37-years-of-age and worried about her legacy as an athlete, Carrie stuns the world by announcing she’s coming out of retirement to defend her record.
In all regards, Carrie has something to prove. Aside from the inevitable challenges she endures while re-training a body that simply doesn’t move how it once did, Carrie faces being unliked and degraded in the media, training with a man she almost dared to love, and rebuilding her personal and professional relationship with her father and coach, Javier, once a famed tennis player himself. In short? It isn’t easy.
Carrie is another member of the pantheon of complex women Reid creates. Carrie is abrasive, unapologetic, and brutally honest. She is not gracious, she does not shy away from her ambition, and her hubris can be intimidating. Carrie is complicated and stubborn, but the more time you spend with her, you see that her resistance to vulnerability is well-founded but not irreversible. Taking her place among the likes of Evelyn Hugo and more, Carrie is an incredible character because of her flaws, not in spite of them.
In addition to the well-developed cast of characters, Reid has done a fantastic job of grounding us in the histories of elite tennis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite the advances made by Billie Jean King and other leading women, Carrie and the other members of the Women’s Tennis Association face discrimination in many forms, including misogyny, ageism, racism, and homophobia, all of which still persist in women’s athletics today.
As a human, Carrie is impacted personally by the commentary made about her and her relationships. But as a tennis player? Carrie knows she is the best, and she always walks out onto the court, wipes the top of her shoes, and plays her heart out until she isn’t sure she has anything left to give.
In fast-moving prose that makes the reader feel like a spectator at a tennis match, you’ll be anxious to keep moving through “Carrie Soto is Back” needing to know what happens next. As you watch Carrie work tirelessly to try and defend her record, you’ll get a firsthand look into the destructive nature of perfectionism and what it does when left unchecked.
As Carrie slowly learns to focus less on stats and records and more on pursuing her first love of tennis, you’ll see that real legacies extend beyond our accomplishments and become solidified when we use our talents to mentor the next generation, even if it means they might be better than us.