Book Review: Carrie Soto Is Back // Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Carrie Soto Is Back is yet another masterpiece amongst Taylor Jenkins Reid’s immensely popular body of work. In her latest instalment of what has been aptly named the ‘Taylor Jenkins Reid Universe’, we follow fictional tennis superstar Carrie Soto. Reid draws us in immediately with an engaging premise: recently retired Carrie Soto watches newcomer Nicki Chan take her twenty Grand Slams record away. Soto refuses to allow her legacy to be snatched away from her grasp, and embarks on a journey to win back her title. With a protagonist unmatched in determination and passion, Reid provides us with a story that is impossible to put down.

Reid’s popularity as an author soared after the 2017 release of her hit novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which follows the life of Marilyn-Monroe-esque Evelyn Hugo as she breaks into Hollywood, and marked the beginning of Reid’s ‘universe.’  Reid built upon her success with Daisy Jones and the Six, a tale of the relationship between a singer and a band, reminiscent of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. 2021’s Malibu Rising, a captivating read set during 24 hours at a house party, introduces Carrie Soto in a particularly shocking fashion. Reid has managed to craft an addictive and glamorous universe with these four novels, and Carrie Soto is no exception.

The most engaging aspect of this novel is the characterisation of our titular protagonist, Carrie Soto. First introduced in Reid’s Malibu Rising, Carrie is portrayed as an unlikable and unfriendly person, and this is continuously reinforced in her narration. One of the most significant struggles she faces when she begins competing again is the criticism of her ‘attitude’ on court and in interviews. The novel is interspersed with transcripts of commentary on various players, as well as newspaper clippings. Carrie’s refusal to downplay her phenomenal tennis achievements earn her the cruel nickname ‘The Battle-Axe’ in these commentaries, which is often substituted for ‘The Bitch’ by particularly unpleasant male reporters. The degrading way in which Carrie is treated by the media is frustrating to read, and could be a nod to the treatment Serena Williams received by the press back in 2019 after arguing with the umpire during the US Open final. Reid pointedly illustrates the double standard for Carrie and her male counterparts, as Carrie is expected to praise her opponents without acknowledging the role her own determination and skill plays in her victories.

Although initially a difficult character to follow, we cannot help admiring Carrie’s sheer persistence and dedication to her craft. Carrie’s love for tennis shines on every page, and she will gradually win you over as her conviction to beat her own record never wavers. Carrie’s refusal to apologise for what she has achieved is refreshing to read about, when many of her opponents choose to do so in order to remain popular. Reid manages to strike a balance between having Soto remain proud of herself, whilst also emphasising her need for more empathy and emotional vulnerability.

As a tennis player myself, it feels like this book was written for me. Reid writes every match like an action scene, with the tension ramping up with every match Soto plays. As we are inside Carrie’s head, her tactical ability whilst playing is mesmerising to read. For fans of tennis, the novel is a love letter, painstakingly showing the dedication required to be a professional tennis player. For non-tennis fans, Reid explains the rules and tactics in a digestible fashion, and will soon persuade anyone who reads this book that tennis is a remarkable sport to play, and read about!

Reid’s latest release is an excellent addition to her universe, and a gripping read. An essential read for those interested in tennis, Carrie Soto is Back will have you hooked from start to finish.

Words by Emily Nutbean

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