Having heard a lot about the author's previous book and because of my mostly good experiences with YA contemporary novels, I expected a lot from Playing Hurt. The book turned out to be completely different from what I expected and unfortunately, not in a good way. Though I am sorry to say I am a bit disappointed in the book, there still are things I did like about it which I will come to later.
Chelsea Keyes was the star basketball player in her high school. Everything changed after a disastrous accident that stopped her from playing any further games. Chelsea is broken not just physically but mentally too. Everything she worked towards is falling apart. Her boyfriend, Gabe supports her through the rough time. Chelsea goes to a three week "boot camp" program which is a gift from her father. Her trainer is 19 year old, Clint, who has his own painful past to deal with. Chelsea and Clint are two broken people trying to be whole again. When they meet, they are immediately drawn to each other, but Chelsea is torn between Gabe and Clint.
I have not read the author's previous novel, A Blue So Dark, but I have heard it being praised a lot, especially the author's writing. I agree completely. Her beautiful writing creates a lingering effect - there are lines and paragraphs that I could read again and again.
Playing Hurt is told from both Clint and Chelsea's perspectives, which is something different because usually we only get to know one of the main protagonists' point of view. In Playing Hurt, we get to know what both of them are thinking or feeling in more detail. The transition between the two POVs is smooth and unlike what one might expect, it's not confusing at all.
Initially, I really liked how the story evolved. I really felt for Chelsea, especially when she relives the accident that changed everything. What she has to go through seems so sad and unfair for a young, talented girl like Chelsea that I couldn't help but feel bad. Though I did not care for Gabe a lot, I thought him to be a sweet, supportive boyfriend who did not abandon her during her worst time. I also liked her relationship with her younger brother and how the author portrayed the conflicted relationship with her father. However, the book started to go downhill for me once Chelsea reached the camp. I expected the focus of the book to be more on Chelsea's journey towards healing, accepting what happened and creating a new life for herself, rather that on the romance. Whatever little connection I felt with Chelsea disappeared once she met Clint - maybe it's just me, but I felt that she became a completely different person. The way Clint and Chelsea describe each other seems straight out of a romance novel. Both of them seem to focus too much on each others' looks, which makes it seem like their relationship is all about attraction based on physical appearence. I really don't understand this "insta-attraction" thing and had a hard time seeing the point or the basis of their relationship. The romance seemed to be lacking any real emotional connection. Moreover, what about Gabe? I seriously felt bad for him. He seemed like a perfectly nice boyfriend who stands by Chelsea through the worst, yet suddenly she sees Clint and forgets all about Gabe. Is it that easy? Perhaps a better development of the romance between Clint and Chelsea would have made me more in favor of their feelings for each other.
I wish Chelsea had given more thought about Gabe and what she was doing to him. In the start, I found Chelsea to be a brave girl with an incredible inner strength. Halfway through the book, she seemed like a selfish, thoughtless girl. Connecting to the characters is important for me; unfortunately, I felt nothing for either of the main protagonists.
This is just one person's opinion though. Let it not deter anyone from reading the book. There have been many more positive reviews as compared to a very few negative ones. So I guess if you are a fan of the author or like the YA contemporary genre, you can read this book and make up your own mind about it. You might like it much more than I did.
Yes, for a one time read and for fans of romance.