Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review - Head Games

Keri Mikulski
Taylor Thomas is the tallest girl in her high school (six. feet.) and a basketball phenomenon, but off the court she's Miss Nice Girl. She tutors all her teammates at the expense of her own grades, agrees to model in her best friend's fashion show even though she's terrified of the whole idea, and is generally nice, polite... and utterly forgettable. But that changes when her longtime crush breaks up with his girlfriend (a teammate of Taylor's) and - with some nudging from her best friend - Taylor finally goes after him.

The plot here - involving Taylor's boy troubles, basketball aspirations, and journey to stand up for herself more - is entertaining but almost seems like there's just too much. The central plot about Taylor's quasi-relationship with the ex-boyfriend of a teammate would have been interesting and captivating enough on its own, but instead of focusing primarily on that, the book adds in many other storylines that seem to distract rather than add to the overall story, with a few of them only really coming into the spotlight in the last few chapters.

The characters in this book seem to suffer from the same lack of cohesiveness as the plot does. While Taylor's said again and again to be "too nice," she also manages to start dating a teammate's ex-boyfriend just days after their breakup, causing all sorts of friend- and team-drama that should have easily been avoided. Her best friend, while encouraging Taylor to stand up for herself, also signs her up to model in a fashion show without so much as asking first. There are a lot of contradictions in the way these characters treat one another and the choices they make, which not only hindered the impact of this book but also my enjoyment of it. Though the theme of standing up for yourself and not letting others push you around came through loud and clear, the messy contradictions of Taylor's character made the theme fall a little flat, as if there was a lot of lip service, but not much to back it up.

Despite my issues with the rest of the book, the basketball/sports culture here came though really well and anchored the story. Taylor's drive and love for the game is apparent from page one and though I'm the furthest thing from a basketball fan I really appreciated this. It made her and those around her seem more real.

On the whole, this was a quick and entertaining but not altogether satisfying read. There were moments when the story really shined, but they weren't often enough to make up for the lack of focus.

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