Finally, a YA book that doesn't shy away from mature themes! Where have you been, Ms. Schindler, and why hadn't I read your books yet?
Yes, Playing Hurt deals with mature themes, specifically those of the sexual kind - in this instance, it's both sex and the act of cheating. Which is not your typical YA storyline in which the main character searches for the "one" or his/her soulmate. Instead, it's about discovering new love through rather unnacceptable means. And while I certainly don't condone cheating, neither does the book. Playing Hurt offers a gritty, but realistic, portrayal of a different kind of self-discovery journey.
Chelsea actually grows as a character. So does Clint. They're neither monotonous nor stationary. Aside from their cliché appearances - totally gorgeous, tall and tan - they really do mesh well together. Sure, it's insta-love. But there's more to it. There's depth - something that usually gets overlooked. Their problems are entirely different from one another's, yet they're able to come together in more ways than one.
My only gripe is that the sports take a bit of a backseat within the plot. The story is about both Chelsea and Clint going through this boot camp program, but there's hardly anything boot camp about it. And considering Chelsea's self-discovery revolves around life after basketball, and Clint's after hockey, I came to expect more of an inclusion of sports. Unfortunately, the expectation falls short. There are sports, of course, just not as much as you may think.
Other than that, Schindler's writing is very fluid with beautiful descriptions that aren't overdone. The pace keeps steady and the minor characters get just enough "air time." Playing Hurt is a great rollercoaster of emotions, all neatly packaged and presented to its readers.