When her mother died, rising junior star Indiana Gaffney stopped playing tennis. But even she couldn’t stay away from the game completely. After watching up-and-coming American player Penny Harrison win the Madrid Open, Indy decides to accept the invitation from coach Dom Kingston to train at the Outer Banks Academy (OBX), an elite, world-renowned tennis facility in North Carolina. Soon enough she’s outranking more experienced players, gaining enemies, and catching the eye of Penny’s older brother, agent Jack Harrison.
Penny Harrison is on cloud nine. She just beat the number one player in the world at the Madrid Open. Now it’s time to gear up for Paris and the French Open. Everything is going smoothly until her coach teams her up to train with bad boy Alex Russell, the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936, and someone with whom she had a recent fling. Can she handle the tension between them without letting it undo her?
Jasmine Randazzo is the child of two former Grand Slam champions and Olympic gold medalists. With her parent’s beach front estate only a walk down from Outer Banks, Jas has practically grown up at the academy. Her budding tennis career looks promising until Indy arrives and takes over as the new junior tour ‘it’ girl. To complicate the already intense expectations she shoulders, Jasmine’s in love with her best friend, Penny’s twin Teddy, who’s also a player on the pro tour. Neither Indy, Penny, or Jasmine can win both on and off the court, but they sure won’t want for drama, or romance, at OBX.
I had never heard of this new adult ebook until I received a review request from someone at its publisher, Coliloquy. If I hadn’t already fallen for the instantly recognizable tennis title and the neon and black-and-white cover, all I needed to hear was the word ‘tennis’ and I was in. I started playing tennis in elementary school and played throughout grade school at the local club as well as on the high school tennis team. (To indulge me more on this see the note below.) With a few exceptions, I find sports movies boring, and I’d never read fiction that features a sport prominently, let alone my favorite sport, so I couldn’t help myself. But I never worried about how Game. Set. Match. and I would get on. I wasn’t expecting a deep, character-driven novel, though Indy, Penny, and Jasmine are well-rounded characters. I wanted tennis matches and rivalry and a little romance and that is exactly what Jennifer Iacopelli’s debut novel delivers.
Game. Set. Match. strikes the perfect chord between fun and light but not overly light. There is substance in the characterization, the relationships, and the tennis action scenes. The first thing I didn’t anticipate was the prominence of the romances in Game. Set. Match. With the current trends in ebook new adult publishing, I think of it being tamer contemporary romance for the older YA or college-aged reader. The romances take more of a back seat to the tennis in Iacopelli’s novel, which I liked. There is some drinking and a few steamy moments, though not more graphic than some of the mature YA contemps I’ve read (i.e. Jennifer Echols and John Green) that are often placed in the adult fiction collections of public libraries rather than the young adult section. So smexy readers, don’t fret! But as this is the first book in the Outer Banks Academy series, beware of some unresolved relationships and tournaments.
The second aspect of Game. Set. Match. which caught me off guard was its strengths. There are a handful of important tennis matches played by each of the girls that had unpredictable outcomes. My biggest complaint with sports films is the predictability in your team winning the decisive game at the end of the film. It was thrilling to read about matches in which either opponent could end up winning . Even better, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed in the outcome because the tennis was always written with suspense and with each girl’s individual technique and mental game in mind. I was also pleased by the unexpected nuance in the mean girl style rivalry between Indy and Jasmine. I love when the initially one-note mean girl defies stereotype in YA contemps (see Courtney Summers). Jasmine and Indy’s hate relationship develops into a complicated friendship by the conclusion, and I enjoyed how they came to support each other in each other’s love life and tennis career. As can be expected with rotating perspectives, you’ll have character(s) you prefer. While it took the longest for me to genuinely sympathize with Jasmine’s character and I would’ve loved to be closer to the male leads, I’m happy that this is a series and Iacopelli can give Indy, Penny, and Jasmine the further attention and development they deserve in future installments. It can be a fine line for me between preferring a debut novel to be a stand alone or the first of a series but in this case I’m delighted at the thought of spending more time with Indy, Penny, and Jasmine at OBX in the near future.
Note: I’m not naturally athletic (just look at any picture of me!) so I worked harder than most players around me to keep up, and I was always proud of that. I don’t play very often now, but I hope to pick up the sport again in the future. In lieu of playing I’ve become a hard core fan of professional tennis and particularly the Grand Slam tournaments, which I’ve been watching with my mother since I was a little girl, when Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi were still playing. I was even able to attend a women’s semifinal Wimbledon match between Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams when I was living in London in 2005, which was a dream come true. Also, I was the lucky viewer of all of the nearly five hour epic Wimbledon final between Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, which has been lauded as the greatest match ever played. Besides Nadal, I have a soft spot for Brit Andy Murray, who was the only celebrity I spotted while living in London. Nadal and Andy FTW!
And finally, a picture of a few items I dug out from high school tennis:
Mostly YA Lit – “I thought Jennifer Iacopelli balanced the romance, the multiple stories, and the connections between them nicely.”
My Guilty Obsession – “Overall I really enjoyed this read and will definitely be continuing with the series.”
The Autumn Review – “I don’t feel like you have to understand or even like tennis to appreciate this book.”
The Bookish Babe – “Game. Set. Match. was such a fantastic read.”
Xpresso Reads – “I found it to be a perfectly balanced feel-good book.”