Title: Carrie Soto Is Back 
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: August 30th 2022
Publisher: Hutchinson Heinemann
Finished reading: July 31st 2022
Pages: 368

“No matter how good I was on the court, I was never good enough for the public. It wasn’t enough to play nearly perfect tennis. I had to do that and also be charming. And that charm had to appear effortless.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Hutchinson Heinemann in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


WARNING: it’s time to jump aboard the unpopular opinion train again!

I have read four Taylor Jenkins Reid books before this one, and every single one blew me away. I have been highly anticipating Carrie Soto Is Back for that exact reason ever since I first heard about it, and the blurb sounded fantastic. I fully expected to find a new 5 star read and I admit my expectations might have been set a bit too high, because somehow I didn’t love this story as much as I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read and I’m still a huge fan of her writing, but there is also no denying that this is my least favorite TJR story I’ve read to this date. I’ll try to explain why below.

First of all, I have to say that I still love the premise of the story. The retired tennis player coming back to defend her record, the inner workings of top level tennis playing and training… There is something ruthless about it all, and I think the author does a great job portraying the different emotions. I liked the structure of the plot; showing us more about how Carrie Soto became a tennis superstar before returning to the ‘present’ where she decides to return to defend her record. Taylor Jenkins Reid has always excelled at story crafting and it shows in the strength of the plot and structure.

As for the characters… I can’t say that I liked Carrie Soto, but there is no doubt that she is fierce and simply fascinating. Bowe likewise makes for an intriguing character, and I liked how Carrie’s father Javier fit into the story. Taylor Jenkins Reid is so good at creating flawed and realistic characters, and I definitely felt that magical touch with this cast. Not as strong as with some of her other titles maybe, but it was still very much there. The character growth was very well done as well, and I liked the dynamics between Carrie and Bowe and the respite it offered from all the tennis talk.

Now on to what didn’t work for me. First up is a major personal pet peeve and something that might not bother most: the use of Spanish in the text. I have a degree in Spanish Philology and I have called Argentina my home for over a decade, so I was stoked when I discovered Carrie Soto has Argentinian blood and that the story was going to include Spanish. It usually only makes me love a story even more, but it backfired for me in Carrie Soto Is Back. I understand that I read the ARC and mistakes will (hopefully) be fixed in the final version, but the Spanish was BAD. And I’m not talking about simple spelling/grammar mistakes or using the wrong words, but also using expressions that an Argentinian would never use. It soon made me cringe ever time I had to suffer through another incorrect use of Spanish, and if I have to see the ‘Bueno‘ expression one more time (something that is NOT used in Argentina, by the way), I think I’m going to scream. Also, I have to note that the use of Spanish might backfire for non-Spanish speakers as well; there is often no translation offered and the use goes a lot further than a simply word/phrase every now and then.

Another thing that bothered me considerably is the fact that tennis basically overpowers everything in the plot. There is so much talk about tennis ALL THE TIME, with technical terms, match play-by-plays and detailed descriptions of just about everything relating to tennis, and it kind of overshadowed the rest of the story for me. Sure, all these details show that Taylor Jenkins Reid did her research and that she knows what she’s talking about. I’m sure tennis fans will love the story even more because of it, but if you are not a fan of the sport (like me) it can quickly turn into an overdose. I wish there would have been more focus on Carrie’s personal life and maybe even on her connection with Bowe; as it is the dynamics felt off for me.

That said, Carrie Soto Is Back is by no means a bad read and her writing is just as strong as usual (except for the Spanish), but there was just something about this book that made it a bad match for me. This doesn’t mean I don’t still consider her one of my favorite authors though, and I will be ready for a rematch with one of her backlist titles some time soon. Just as I will still be looking forward to whatever she will write next…

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