Title: Carrie Soto Is Back
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
My Rating: ★★★★
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sports
Age Range: Adult
Publication: 30 August 2022 (Ballantine Books)
CW: Ageism, Alcohol, Cancer (Past), Cheating, Death of a loved one, Misogyny, Terminal illness
Ladies and gentlemen, Taylor Jenkins Reid is back.
If you know me, you know that I’m a massive Taylor Jenkins Reid fan. So it was a no-brainer that I had to pre-order her newest release, Carrie Soto Is Back, which was released in August 2022.
At 37 years old, Carrie Soto is a retired tennis player and holds nearly every record there is. However, when a younger player threatens to steal her record, Carrie decides to make her grand return to reclaim her title. Fighting criticism, particularly sexism and ageism, Carrie works alongside her father to prove her skills on the courts.
I’ve never been one for sports, but TJR roped me in.
I’ve never enjoyed sports. Ever. So I was a bit skeptical going into this book. However, I found myself actually invested in the story and Carrie’s career as it progressed throughout the novel.
Will I actively seek out opportunities to engage in sports from now on? God no. This is a blip, friends. But it goes to show how effective and accessible Taylor Jenkins Reid’s storytelling abilities are that she could engage a reader like me.
Whatever you want to say about Taylor Jenkins Reid, you have to concede that she puts 110% into the research process when writing her novels.
Let’s be frank, Carrie Soto is badass. But is she likeable?
If there’s one thing about Taylor Jenkins Reid, it’s that she doesn’t write about ordinary women; she writes about those destined to be great. She tells stories about ambition and the consequences of it. And Carrie Soto Is Back is no exception.
On the surface level, this novel is about tennis and determination and learning life lessons. All of these aspects were all good and fine, but for me, the crux of the novel was the balance of two very important themes.
The first is the treatment of women in sports. Pretty much everyone in the media and the sports industry at large throws knives at Carrie Soto. They go so far as to call her a “bitch” on national television.
It’s not only her drive, but also her self-confidence that makes her a target. No one likes a woman who knows her own worth, especially the sports industry who ask for female athletes to be pretty, smile, and most of all, act “ladylike”.
The second, and most important theme is ageism.
The shelf life of women in sports is a frequent topic of discussion in Carrie Soto Is Back. Many people look down upon Carrie for returning to the courts throughout the story. This is crazy to readers because she’s not even 40 years old.
Maybe some will try to chalk up this plot line as a sign of the times. The story does take place in the 1990s, after all. However, I would argue that this narrative persists even today.
Women in the limelight are often considered “over the hill” once they’ve reached their thirties. It’s hard not to make comparisons between this theme and Taylor Swift’s comment on age in her 2020 documentary, Miss Americana:
“We do exist in this society where women in entertainment are discarded in an elephant graveyard by the time they’re 35. As I’m reaching 30, I’m like, I want to work really hard while society is still tolerating me being successful.”
Sure, Carrie’s physical age shows up throughout the novel. Her body aches and sometimes cannot keep up with her mind. She works harder than she used to and falters more often, too. Still, it’s hard not to roll your eyes at male sportscasters condemning Carrie for returning from retirement and treating her like a senior citizen.
I will say, this didn’t stand up to previous TJR gems like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones and the Six. However, it fell in a similar category as Malibu Rising. I was entertained and engaged, but not devoted. “Good but not great” is a line I would use to describe this novel, in a loving way.
The Taylor Jenkins Reid Cinematic Universe continues with Carrie Soto Is Back and with another win in her catalogue, I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes it next.
Synopsis: Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.
But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.
At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.
In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.
Did you root for Carrie Soto? Comment and let me know!
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