Author: Liz Fichera
Published: January 29, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Fred has been picked for the golf team. Nothing new there, right? But you need a few details. Fred is really Fredrika, and this is the men’s golf team. And she’s a Native girl from an Arizona rez, plopped in the midst of spoiled rich white boys from Phoenix.
One of those is Ryan, who was the best player on the team before Fred came along, and whose best friend was bumped to make room for her. He has no reason to like her, but he just can't stop thinking about her or wanting to spend time with her.
There are so many reasons that being together would be problematic. But the only thing worse is being apart.
Guys, I'm awfully torn about this book.
The Good: I got hooked (hur-hur, see what I did there?) by Fred and Ryan. I really wanted them to be together, even when they made dumb decisions and then angsted about them. They genuinely liked and respected each other once they scratched the surface even the tiniest bit, so I was well able to believe that this was more than hornypants. They had a shot at a good thing, if they were able to take it.
I also loved the sense of place. This was very clearly an Arizona book, and it brought out the majesty and desolation of the desert that I love. It also touched on the racial tensions that, unfortunately, my state is known for. (Yay us. Sarcasm flag.) I even got a happy thrill when Tucson or the U of A were mentioned. What can I say? My state just doesn't get that much literary recognition.
And . . . the Bad: See above, about the bad decisions. There were times I wanted to yell at the book: "Fred! Stop messing around with the old friend who wants to be more. You know that never ends well. Ryan! Jettison the clingy bitchy girlfriend and the jerkwad best friend. You know that never ends well. Are you two listening to me?"
Second is a SPOILER. Jump down to the last paragraph if you don't want to be SPOILED.
Good now? Okay. So, what bugged me, more and more deeply the more I think about it, is that Fred never resolved her conflict with Seth, the boy who was bumped from the team to make room for her. From the beginning, she feels out of place. Seth goes out of his way to reinforce that feeling, in hopes of bullying her right off the team so that things are the way they’re supposed to be. Is it because she’s a girl? Because she’s an Indian? Both of those things, but mostly because she replaced him.
I was waiting for the moment where she said to him, “Yknow what? Put on your big boy Underoos and deal. I deserve to be here. I deserve to play. I’m good, and you got cut because you weren’t.” But she never did. She apologized for having stepped on his toes, in fact, right up to, and throughout, the climactic scene. I felt cheated by that. It’s her conflict, and she didn’t resolve it. Instead, Ryan beat Seth to a pulp. Which, well done, because Ryan was a bit of a milquetoast about that situation for most of the book, but that shouldn’t have been the climax to her story, especially since Ryan had already made his allegiance clear in an earlier scene. In the three conflicts that this encompasses - Native vs. white, girl vs. boy, athlete vs athlete - this was unsatisfying for all three of them. And that made me unhappy because it started out so promising.
Still, I have a hard time resisting good swoon. Even with my doubts, I’ll recommend it to fans of the Perfect Chemistry series, and I'll read the next book in the series, about Ryan’s sister and Fred’s friend. But I want a more satisfying climax to both journeys.