Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Title: Carrie Soto is Back
  • Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • Intended audience: adult
  • Format read: eARC
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Pub date: August 30, 2022
  • Content warnings: parental death, grief, mentions of cancer, alcohol, cheating
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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.

🕮 | StoryGraph | Goodreads 🕮

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I have to admit, I definitely feel guilty for only just now getting around to writing my review for Carrie Soto is Back. I read it well before the pub date, and it was even one of my top ten releases of 2022. But of course, part of the reason this was such a difficult review to write is because I loved it so much. Dare I say it, Carrie Soto is Back is my favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid book thus far. Reid has a specialty for writing unlikable women, but interestingly enough, the women in her books are usually unlikable in different ways. It just so happens that Carrie’s brand of unlikable is the one that I find the most compelling.

Let’s get something out of the way first: this is an incredibly biased review. Now, it is my blog, and all of my reviews are biased, but this one perhaps to a greater extent than some of the others. Here is the cold, hard truth: I probably would not have liked this book as Reid had chosen a different sport. I am not a sports person. However, I am actually a tennis person, so she managed to write about the one sport I genuinely have interest in.

The other mains source of bias is what I already mentioned: Carrie is unlikable, but in a way that I really understood. It was easy to see how her pride and her attempt to defend herself against the harshness of the world had settled into a prickly exterior. She put up so many defenses to avoid getting hurt that she was unable to form friendships with anyone other than her father. She let winning be the most important thing, because to do otherwise would require putting her heart at risk.

She has also put up defenses to cope with being in the public eye. While dealing with the press is most certainly a first-world problem, there is no question the press (and the public) often feel entitled to personal information, and can be extremely misogynistic. It is a hard truth for Carrie to learn that while the press is misogynistic and agist in their attitudes towards her, she has also made decisions that have lead to their impressions of her.

It stuns me silent, for a moment: just how vast the gap is between who I am and how people see me.

Although the marketing plot point is that Carrie is trying to win back her titles, the real story is the character development Carrie experiences. Carrie believes the only thing she has to do to win is to get back in shape. That by playing enough tennis, she will be able to rise to her former standing. What she doesn’t know is that to be successful, she is also going to have to change her mindset about tennis, the people around her, and herself.

I also really loved reading a book about an “older” character. At a mere 37 years, Carrie is not actually that old. But in the world of tennis and professional sports, she definitely is. While Carrie has a lot to learn over the course of the book, she also finds that her experience affords her wisdom and advantages her competitors don’t have. I enjoyed getting to see how it influenced her approach to the game.

There are definitely valid criticisms about Carrie Soto is Back. Most notably, Reid is white and not Latinx, even though her character is. I cannot personally speak for the Latinx representation, and I would never recommend this book as “a Latinx book.” In general, I can say that it did not seem like Reid did not have as nuanced an understanding of Carrie’s identity as a Latinx woman as a reader might like.

For me, the story and the characters were incredibly compelling. The novel was a page-turner, I simply did not want to stop reading. And it definitely made me cry. If you have read and enjoyed any of Reid’s books in the past, I would definitely recommend Carrie Soto is Back.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Review: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

6 thoughts on “Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. I loved this novel, devoured it in one day when it came out! I love Reid’s women, I think the only one who wasn’t unlikeable was Nina in Malibu Rising, but I love them and understand them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely also have a soft spot for the women in Malibu Rising, it’s the men in that book who are so unlikable I can’t stand it (of course, that is definitely the point, but still)


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