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In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything.

Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek—he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa’s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything—maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

258 pages, Paperback

First published April 14, 2015

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About the author

Michelle Smith

3 books113 followers
Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews
Profile Image for Hazel (Stay Bookish).
635 reviews1,615 followers
August 14, 2015
Visit Stay Bookish for more book reviews and for a chance to win a paperback copy of Play On!

Actual rating: 4.5

YA Sports Romances seem to just draw me in, despite not being a sporty person at all in real life, and I guess that’s the main reason I was looking forward to Play On. I can assure you that this book hits the subgenre right in the nail, with a dedicated baseball player hero finding himself absolutely smitten by the new girl in town. However, Play On is so much more than it appears to be.

“It’s a little terrifying how one person can knock you clean off your feet before you even saw her coming.”

Okay, there’s definitely some light-hearted instant attraction that goes on in the story and I have to say this hopeless romantic was quite addicted to it. I do love getting swoony feels and Play On delivered just that what with its incredibly sweet and charming main character, Austin Braxton. I’m just gonna go on wishing that guys like him are out there in the world. A complete gentleman, a mama’s boy, a great friend and a passionate athlete, it was not hard to love Austin, no matter how cheesy he got. His narrative was so refreshing and so perfectly captured a teenager who’s fallen head over heels. His inner monologue was so adorable and realistic and easy to connect to. Smith pretty much rocked the male POV.

“How’d we get lucky enough to find each other?” she asks.
“Because the universe can be a jerk, but I think it knows when people need something amazing.”

The romance with Marisa, the new girl who helps Austin get back on track with Chemistry to be able to maintain his spot on the team as well as his scholarship, was delightful but also heart breaking in some parts. Although she’s a fairly likable character, smart and funny, only when her past and condition was revealed did I truly understand her. Austin broke through Marisa’s walls little by little and in return, he gradually opened up to her about his own demons regarding the suicide of his father. Aside from trusting each other with their secrets, the way the two supported each other was ultimately what made me want them to be together.

“For years, I’ve fought a war in my head… It’s hard to bring people into that war, even if they’re wiling allies who want to help. And when you fight alone, sometimes.. It’s hard to win a battle when you’re fighting alone.”

I loved how Michelle Smith handled depression from the perspective of someone who wasn’t experiencing it first hand but seeing a person he loved go through it instead and trying to grapple with the concept and how it just happens and what’s the best thing you could do for someone depressed. Aside from that, I really liked how Play On also portrayed a gay couple, Austin’s best friend and team mate, Jay and Brett, struggling with coming out.

“I’m trying to remind myself that things have a way of working out the way they’re supposed to. Maybe not the way we plan, but the way they’re meant to be.”

Aside from the fabulous romance, the book’s themes were really heartfelt and well-depicted and that’s why this story is an important one to me. Play On is a noteworthy debut that I cannot recommend enough. I’m looking forward to more from Michelle Smith and am so freaking psyched that there will be a sequel/companion novel. I’m ready for you, Game On!
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,758 followers
January 20, 2018

First of all, are you suffering from the awful Monday sucks syndrome? Let's take a look at the symptoms :
✘ You're morphed into a grumpy Grinch, and you scowl way too often
✘ You either don't answer right away when asked for doing something or you're doing it muttering to yourself that people are killjoy

If that's the case, I've got what you need : indeed this book, while not free of flaws, is for me the perfect medicine to kick this syndrome's ass.

Austin's head is full of shit. Full of cheese. Full of insta-attraction. But damn, the guy is all kinds of adorable and calls himself on his crap : that's something, isn't it? Don't get fooled by his superstar player status : indeed he is a dork - a cute not that confident dork, and his voice was so refreshing and believable that I didn't even care about the insta-attraction. I was too busy laughing and smiling, I guess, because damn, the guy can think the cutest stuff and yet be straight-on ridiculous sometimes! Well, now, that's a teenager in love for you. It remains that his inner monologues made me laugh out loud more often than not, and above that, he was loyal and cared so much about Marisa, his friends and his mother that I couldn't help but fall in love along the way.

"Her handshake slows. "Can I have my hand back now?"
Shaking my head, I let go immediately. Smooth. Really smooth. (...)
She moves past me and laughs a little, but it sounds like one of those nervous I-think-I-just-met-a-serial-killer laughs."

Yes, Austin is completely smitten, but you know, he has a life too. Baseball. A lot of baseball. I really liked following his games even if I'm not sure that I understood everything, being a baseball noob and all, because it was fucking realistic. I mean, how many books do we read where characters brag about being crazy about their sport and yet we never get to see them play? Yes, Austin is in love - like, the first kind of crazy love - but it doesn't prevent him for caring about his friends (can I say that I adore this bunch of guys?), his mother, his passion. Thank you. No love erases everything else kind of crap here.

"I have no idea why, but my tongue feels like it's glued to the roof of my mouth when I'm in the same room as this girl.
And when I do open my mouth, something stupid usually tumbles out.
"Do you eat food?"
Like that."

While predictable, the story stays free of my biggest peeves, that is to say : slut-shaming and useless drama. Now, I'm not saying that it doesn't deal with hard subjects, because it does. In fact it deals with my absolute worst kind of issue : depression. Because of personal reasons, I have a (really) hard time staying calm and not getting mad when I read about characters like Marisa who suffer from depression over no particular reason. Therefore to me it's saying something that I found it well-handled here and that it didn't bother me (too much). Yes Marisa knows depressive episodes. No she can't explain why. Yes it's realistic, because I knew that - not personally, but from someone I care about a lot. Yet she tries, and tries, and tries again - she isn't always depressed, far from it, and to me it was believable and relatable. Yes, Marisa suffers from depression, but she can't be defined only by it, no. She's more, way more than it. And do you know what I absolutely loved? The fact that Austin didn't think that he could deal with Marisa's problems alone, and asked for help. One might say this is cowardice, but in my opinion it's bravery. In many young adults books, we see teenagers dealing with huge problems without never asking for help and it bothers me, because that's not the kind of message I want to spread to the young out there. Hear me out : I can't deny that unfortunately some teenagers aren't given the possibility to be helped but I think, I hope that it's not the majority. When we feel overwhelmed, we have to ask for help before drowning. There's no such thing as pride when lives are at stake.

The story is predictable, but it's male POV guys! I mean, how rare is it? HOW FUCKING REFRESHING?

I'm probably forgetting a lot of things here, but hey, sometimes you just have to keep it short. Don't expect originality, but if you can bear some cheesy scenes and the insta-attraction going on, I'd say that you're in for a few hours of smiles, laughs, and swooning. Sometimes it's exactly what we need, isn't it? And hey, Austin says himself, "[he's] kind of the master of cheese in this relationship".

I love him anyway. I hope you will.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,723 reviews1,278 followers
April 11, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Spencer Hill Contemporary, and NetGalley.)

“Depression’s like a thief,” she continues, closing the suitcase and zipping it up. “It weasels its way into your body. Sometimes it’s slow, and sometimes it just barges in like it owns the place. It robs you. Before you know what’s happened, coal is in the place of your heart. Your soul? Empty. Nothing and no one can bring you out of it. No one but you – and sometimes that doesn’t even work.”

This was a YA contemporary romance dealing with baseball, and depression.

The characters in this were okay, although I connected with Marisa a lot more than Austin. I would have much preferred this book if it had been from Marisa’s point of view rather than Austin’s point of view, because I understood what Marisa was going through a lot more than Austin.

“She’s a gorgeous, pint-sized girl who has the best possible taste in baseball. Did God just say poof and bring one of my dreams to life?”

The storyline in this was about Austin’s baseball career, and Marisa’s problems with depression. Austin’s life had also been touched by depression, after his father committed suicide, but he wasn’t really equipped to deal with Marisa’s illness at all.

“Car accident. He drove off the town bridge when I was fifteen.”

There was some romance in this, and I was glad that Marisa and Austin found each other, I just didn’t get sucked into the romance though, possibly because I wasn’t the biggest fan of Austin.

“I’d be a great date, you know.” I pull her a little closer. “I’d wash my truck. Pick you up. Talk about guns with your dad. Even bring you flowers.”
Pressing her lips together, she nods. “Flowers?”
“I know a guy.”

The ending to this was happy, which was good, but overall, I didn’t love this book.
6 out of 10
Profile Image for Danielle (Love at First Page).
726 reviews621 followers
April 1, 2017
4.5-5 stars

I have so many great things to say about this book, I don't even know where to begin. It's one of those that just hit me right in the FEELS; the perfect book at the perfect time. One of this year's hidden gems, maybe? I absolutely fell in love with our main character, Braxton, and his small town that he's beginning to see in a brand new light at the last hour. This book is about life, about love, about baseball, about big and small things, about friends, family, and home. It's got layer upon layer of great messages and themes, yet it's such an easy book to sink into. Short version: Play On surprised the heck out of me, but let me see if I can do my feelings justice.

I'm gonna go ahead and say it: this book is like Friday Night Lights for baseball. You've got a tough-love coach, a group of boys who are like brothers, and a community that lives and breathes for them. In Lewis Creek, South Carolina, baseball - especially Braxton's high school team - is everything. It's Braxton's senior year, his last year to play with his best friends, but he's ready to leave town and never look back - or so he thinks. Meeting Marisa, the homeschooled science nerd who's new to town, is just the first step to realizing that maybe his feelings toward his home are just a little off-base.

Honestly, the synopsis doesn't come close to the magic of Play On. Friday Night Lights fans, you know that feeling you got whenever you watched a really great episode, or every time you heard: Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. This book evokes those same BIG emotions, where you're completely caught up in these characters lives and rooting for them both on and off the field. Braxton immediately pulled me in with his southern charm and easygoing manners. He's funny and self-deprecating... easily one of the most realistic teen male voices I've read. His passion for baseball is infectious; as the star pitcher he's got it made in this small town, but he's not cocky about it. Despite his being an Atlanta Braves fan (go Yankees!) I easily connected to him. I will always have a soft spot for athletes and sports romances, so he already had bonus points going in, but his sweet disposition won my heart right away. He's totally a Momma's boy, too, which is endearing to see.

Braxton is of course ready to leave town and start the next phase of his baseball career as a college pitcher, but there's more to his leaving than that. Two years ago his dad committed suicide and it was completely unexpected. He was a loving husband and a supportive father, so Braxton can't understand why he would do such a thing. It's heartbreaking to see Braxton's bitterness and anger, but so, so understandable. This story line is one of my favorites, because, man, does Braxton grow and change in the best of ways. His coming to terms with his father's suicide (and depression) is beautifully understated and absolutely humbling. Bravo, Michelle Smith. The romance, too, ties into this subplot. I won't say much because you'll want to discover it on the book's time, but it helped soften me toward Marisa, the love interest, who is somewhat of an enigma in the beginning. I wasn't warming to her the same way I was to Braxton; that is, until we finally reach the nit and grit of her character. Because of what she's going through, there's a unique dynamic between her and Braxton, and it's handled in a way that's usually not done in YA romance. I loved it, especially Braxton's response and hopeful support. Their relationship is one part slow burn and one part mushy (the good kind), developing at the perfect pace. It has plenty of sweet "first love" moments and the chemistry is more than present. I was just... happy for them. I'm glad the author seems to believe in endings the same way I do, too. :)

Two other characters I love? Well, I'll leave their names out, but they're Braxton's best friends and teammates and they're in love but not out of the closet. These boys... oh gosh, they gutted me. Think Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda level of cuteness, and Something Real level of feels. It's such a great message that Michelle Smith conveys here, especially due to the small town setting. As a teenage guy, Braxton doesn't have all the answers, but he's so earnest and always supportive of his friends, and he tries to be there for them in any way he can. The friendship among the three of them honestly had me in tears.

It's always a good thing when a book comes completely out of left field and takes you by surprise. Play On grabbed me by the feels from the very beginning and never let go. I sincerely hope this isn't the last we'll see of this town!

***Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for approving my request in exchange for an honest review.***

This review can also be found at Love at First Page.
Profile Image for Marla Mei.
537 reviews292 followers
June 28, 2015
This book is SURPRISINGLY GOOD. I ENDED UP LOVING IT MUCH MORE THAN I EXPECTED. And isn't it just the best kind of read?

I thought this would be a fluffy read but this book turned out to be so much more. Who would've thought that underneath that cutesy cover lies a story so deep and heartwarming that made me feel all the feelings?

Things I liked about Play On:

1.) Real and relatable characters
Austin has baseball, college, friends and family to think about. In short, he has a LIFE outside Marisa. Thank God!!!

2.) Realistic depiction of depression
This book does not simplify depression nor does it romanticize it. Depression is a bitch; it can hit anyone and sometimes without reason. Play On tells us that falling in love doesn't magically cure mental illness. Austin is a bystander here and he didn't try to play superhero to Marisa's illness and I really appreciated that.

3.) Male POV
Austin is cheesy as hell but in an adorable and dorky way that I couldn't even make myself cringe at his stupid lines because they're just way too cute and they really, really worked.

4.) Solid male friendship
I get very happy when a book has girl friendships in it and it goes the same way with books with solid male friendships. Who doesn't want a group of guys who talk about real things, who has each other's backs?

The feels are too strong on this one that I couldn't write and process everything and I know there are so much more but please just read the book and see for yourself, okay? Please? Thx.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews906 followers
November 2, 2017
Austin Braxton is an all-star pitcher for his high school team in small town Lewis Creek. All he knows and loves is baseball.. Until new girl Marisa Marlowe is hired by Austin's mom in the family's flower shop. By accepting help from Marisa to tutor him in Chemistry, they end up having some chemistry of their own. Only Marisa is keeping a secret that will change their relationship. Will it be for better or for worse?

Don't judge this book by its cover of its blurb.. It might start out as a boy-meets-girl story line with a baseball theme but it's more than that. Play On deals with suicide and depression, two topics that are worthy of any contemporary book. I thought it brought their romance to an even greater level because they're both learning how to deal with it. One who is struggling with it on a day-to-day basis and the other learning how to love someone who is suffering. I thought it was done extremely well. Michelle Smith respected her characters to make this topic feel depressing but at the same time she brings in all the feels. There's also a secondary story line to two secondary characters who are dealing with their family and what it means to "come-out-of-the-closet." They're both beautifully done so well and I absolutely commend Michelle for it.

As for the characters? I loved them all. They were just so supportive of one another. Austin and Marisa together on the page made my heart happy. Even though it seems like it's instant love from his point of view, it didn't really feel like it was because this is the first time I've ever read love at first sight from a boy's point of view. It made me laugh how klutzy he was and how dorky he became. He's one of the most supportive boyfriends around and I'm adding Austin to my book boyfriend just! Marisa was a fighter, this girl who is battling with her mind, trying and failing at times like most people do. I can honestly relate to her struggles as well. I also thought the back-story with Austin's father was done extremely well. It forced him to put things in perspective and finally give him closure. 

Overall, I highly recommend this contemporary romance with a side of serious because you'll pretty much love these characters to death. I know I did and I'm hoping you'll give this a try. Especially if you're wondering what it's like for a teenage boy to fall in love. Also I just love the cover, cute and simple! But I'm sad that this physical paperback is only sold in Barnes and Nobles in the U.S.A.



She's seriously going to believe that I am, in fact, a serial killer. (22)

You want to be a man? A real one knows when he needs help. (49)

I have no idea why, but my tongue feels like it's glued to the roof of my mouth when I'm in the same room as this girl. And when I do open my mouth, something stupid usually tumbles out. (55)

Nobody's ever made me fall this far, this fast? Nobody's ever made me care so much so soon. And it's scary. Exciting, but scary. (124)

It's a little terrifying how one person can knock you clean off your feet before you even saw her coming. (127)

Stop living every moment waiting for the next. Enjoy each moment. Make memories. (185)

You see, there's this darkness that comes with rock bottom. It sucks you in like a black hole. It just—it swallowed me whole. (196)

We all have battles to fight. Mine are just in my head. (200)

Depression's like a thief. It weasels its way in your body. Sometimes it's slow, and sometimes it just barges in like it owns the place. It robs you. Before you know what's happened, coal is in the place of your heart. Your soul? Empty. Nothing and no one can bring you out of it. No one but you—and sometimes that doesn't even work. It can last an hour, a week, or six months. There's no telling. (198)

I don't want easy. I want you. (217)

I never really knew what being nuts about someone meant until I knew that I'd do anything to make you smile. To make you happy. (231)

I'm trying to remind myself that things have a way of working out the way they're supposed to. Maybe not the way we plan, but the way they're meant to be. (246)
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,392 followers
April 29, 2015
Not rating this one because I worked on it in a professional capacity (as a copy editor), but I do want to say this: It is a really, really tricky thing to combine a light, fun sports romance with a topic as dark as severe depression, but that's why I think Play On goes beyond good and into the territory of "necessary." Because frankly, that's how it is - things can be light and fun and then bam, depression can hit without reason and without warning, and that's so, so well depicted here in a way I really haven't seen done before. These characters are warm and wonderful and memorable and flawed and loving and trying, and I really, really hope this book finds its readership because I think it's going to speak to a lot of teens and adults really, really hard.
Profile Image for Rose.
417 reviews589 followers
May 27, 2016
I'll just be here...
In the corner...
All disgustingly happy and what not.

Play On, what have you done to me?

I hate baseball. I don't find Southern accents swoony. And I definitely don't like stories set in small towns.

Yet, I'm here smiling like an idiot thinking about how relatable Marisa is, how genuine Austin is, and how *lovable* everything about this story was.

She inhales deeply. "Depends," she finally says. "Will you try and get in my pants?"
"Irrelevant. You won't be wearing pants."
She shoves my shoulder.

What I expected from this book was a lots of romance, lots of mentions, but little detail of baseball, and a very light read. Instead, I got a book that spoke about the real struggles of mental illness, a gay couple in a conservative, small town, and a sweet romance that tied it all together.

It was told through Austin's POV, and focused on his connection to baseball. Baseball is his true love, and when it almost gets taken from him because of his bad grades.. he meets Marisa. Not only is she a genius, but she now works for his mom and is constantly around. Omg, and this boy.. I just can't. He adores her.

Her lips quirk. "I'm a mess sometimes."
Doesn't matter. "You're a beautiful mess."
"I can be hard to handle."
Doesn't matter. "So can I."
"I'm not perfect."
Really doesn't matter. "You're perfect for me."

Their friendship, attraction, and simple little moments together made my heart squeeze. Not to mention how they opened up to each other, but were also able to get through their separate issues alone. They supported each other, but weren't each others reason for getting better.

This was more of a 3.5 book for me, simply because I felt it to be more of a "coming of age" book rather than a romance. Which is fine, but I wanted more of Austin and Marisa, you know? I did really like it though and I'd recommend to anyone looking for a quick beach read or something, cause it's so light and happy :)

And I never got to tell Marisa how nuts she makes me. How her smile makes me understand every stupid love song cliche. How crazy I go when she's not around.
How I love her.

Profile Image for Zainab.
381 reviews498 followers
April 2, 2017
DNF at page 80.
I tried reallyyyy hard to read it but I don't like it at all. Everyone's just trying too hard and I really don't like the main character
Profile Image for Michelle Smith.
Author 3 books113 followers
Shelved as 'i-wrote-this'
March 11, 2015
I wrote this book. I love this book. And I hope you guys love it, too! If you have any questions, ask away!
Profile Image for Molly.
342 reviews127 followers
September 12, 2015
Rating 3.5


Nice book. It had romance ( unfortunately insta-love/like... although not of the worst kind....bearable) , it had friendship and sports. Not bad at all, just.... would have liked it more had if the ratio of sports and friendship versus romance had been more in favor of the former two. I loved the baseball games (even if all my knowledge about the sport was acquired while watching anime), it felt like watching those sports movies like Remember the Titans (I know, I know it's about another sport...I'm not that dense), sucked me in completely..... and I loved the friendship between Austin and his team-mates (loved them all... Jay, Brett and of course Eric). I liked the romance; Austin was just adorkable around Marisa...

“Why’s she staring at me? I glance over at Jay, but he’s looking at me like I’ve lost my damn mind.
“So,” Marisa says slowly, “where would I find Ms. Braxton?”
Oh. That’s why.
“Um—” I clear my throat, which feels like tree bark, and point to the stairs. “Upstairs. She’s upstairs. In her office. Which is upstairs. You just go up the, you know, stairs.”

" I have no idea why, but my tongue feels like it’s glued to the roof of my mouth when I’m in the same room as this girl. And when I do open my mouth, something stupid usually tumbles out.
“Do you eat food?”
Like that."

..I just wish they'd cut the romance part by half. I think I read to much dark/epic fantasy to appreciate young adult love stories.

So, this is more a case of it's not you, it's me.

Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,144 reviews1,009 followers
July 3, 2016
And Holly wins again. So much great stuff to say about this, but you'll have to wait until August :) Til then... just read it mmmkay?
Profile Image for Daniella (Reading With Daniella).
261 reviews104 followers
March 17, 2021
Click here to see this review and others on my blog Reading With Daniella

TW: Suicide, Depression, Grief

I’m always game for a sports romance, and this one was definitely a homerun.
(Hehe, you see what I did there?)

I really loved Austin’s narration! He was sweet, genuine, and also a little dorky and awkward. I loved how tongue-tied he got whenever he was around Marisa. I found it to be incredibly cute how nervous he was around her just because he liked her so much.

Her handshake slows. “Can I have my hand back now?”
Shaking my head, I let go immediately. Smooth. Really smooth. “Yeah,” I say, clearing my throat. “Sorry ’bout that. You have a good night.”
She moves past me and laughs a little, but it sounds like one of those nervous I-think-I-just-met-a-serial-killer laughs.

“Um—” I clear my throat, which feels like tree bark, and point to the stairs. “Upstairs. She’s upstairs. In her office. Which is upstairs. You just go up the, you know, stairs.”

"I have no idea why, but my tongue feels like it’s glued to the roof of my mouth when I’m in the same room as this girl. And when I do open my mouth, something stupid usually tumbles out.
“Do you eat food?”"

It’s rare to find a YA novel with a male protagonist like him. Typically, they’re initially arrogant and very sure of themselves, not to mention a bit of a jerk at times, but then very sweet and caring. I’m the first to admit that these types of characters are often my favourites (I’m looking at you Daemon Black) but it’s so refreshing to see something like this! Austin was so down-to-earth and sweet, plus a little cheesy sometimes, but that was all part of his charm. Austin was a much more realistic and endearing portrayal of a seventeen year old boy in my opinion.

Austin’s love for Marisa was almost too much for me to handle. He was such a genuine guy and seeing how much he truly adored her was the most adorable thing I’ve read in a long time. I will admit that the romance leaned a little bit toward insta-love, but Austin was so preciously lovesick that I’m not even going to complain.

Her lips quirk. "I'm a mess sometimes."
Doesn't matter. "You're a beautiful mess."
"I can be hard to handle."
Doesn't matter. "So can I."
"I'm not perfect."
Really doesn't matter. "You're perfect for me."

She turns, her lips slightly parted. If I thought the cold took my breath away, it’s nothing compared to her face shining beneath the downtown lights.
And I never got to tell Marisa how nuts she makes me. How her smile makes me understand every stupid love song cliche. How crazy I go when she's not around.
How I love her.

Play On ended up being considerably darker than I had expected. I was looking forward to a really fluffy and cute romance, perhaps something that would give off a Hallmark movie type vibe with the small town setting, but it unexpectedly dove into some very serious issues.
This was a less conventional take on suicide in my opinion, because rather than the protagonist struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, we had our protagonist struggling with seeing somebody he loves going through this.

One issue that I had with this book is that I felt like there were a few instances in which the characters discussed suicide as something entirely unavoidable - like if someone is suicidal they will kill themself no matter what. I felt that this was a really unhealthy and damaging outlook on it.
But Dad—Dad did lose. And I can’t fix that. I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d tried.

This book actually reminds me so much of one of my favourite young adult contemporaries, Not After Everything by Michelle Levy.
1. The characters work together in a small business run by one of their families
2. Narrated by the boy
3. The boys each lost one of their parents in the same way
4. The romance gave off very similar vibes
The stories were very different and unique, but they just had really similar feelings, which I mean in a positive way, although I definitely did prefer Not After Everything. This book did have a much more satisfying ending, which I liked.

I know very little about baseball, so during the scenes at Austin’s games, I kept picturing baseball from Wii Sports and I used that mental visual in an attempt to decipher what was going on. My method was actually relatively effective, and thankfully the scenes were short enough that I was never left too confused.

Honestly, the plot itself was relatively predictable, but having the male narration was so refreshing. Austin’s narration is what made this book stand out.

I didn’t enjoy this quite enough that I am likely to pick up the spinoff book in the near future, but I am certainly intrigued enough that I may decide to read it eventually.

P.S: This book has one of the cutest covers ever and you can’t tell me otherwise!!
Profile Image for Kim.
2,435 reviews380 followers
December 27, 2015
Find this review and more at kimberlyfaye reads .

Y'all, I have a new author to love. Her name is Michelle Smith and her latest, Play On, is everything I love about reading and everything I want in a book. This book was amazing and made of feels and it's destined to be one of those books I never forget and reread time and time again.

I can't deny that I was first drawn to this book by the cover. Which is kind of strange in itself because I'm not a baseball fan. Really. We used to go to lots of Pirates games when I was a kid. I always enjoyed myself, but somewhere along the line, I lost that love. I can still enjoy a good day at the park with friends, but my focus is always more on the beer and the conversation than it is the game. I'm a football girl. What can I say? But still, something about this blurb and cover drew me in. It sounded a little Friday Night Lights-esque and that's honestly what drew me to it. I'm so, so, so glad it did, too. Because this book made me so very happy.

This book stands out for a lot of reasons, but near the top for me is that it's solely from the male POV. I love getting inside a guy's head in a book, but it's pretty rare for me to come across a book that's only from his POV. I know they're out there, but they're not something I tend to gravitate towards. But my word, Austin Braxton is amazing. He's not the stereotypical athlete I'm accustomed to from most books. He's a gentleman. A mama's boy. Driven. He's unafraid to have feelings and express them. He cares about others. He's holding onto a lot of pain after his father's death and trying to come to terms with it. He's worried about his future. He's still human though. He's cocky, but not a jerk. He does some underage drinking. He's not as focused in class as he should be. He's sometimes distracted by girls... or, a girl, more specifically. THIS is the kind of guy I remember from high school. (Yeah yeah it's been awhile.) He was swoony, but still imperfect. I'll take that over the unrealistic guys I find in books more often than not.

I also loved Marisa. She's the type of girl I would've been friends with in school... and still would be to this day. She was smart, funny, loved sports. She was also dealing with some pretty serious issues from the past – ones that are threatening her future in Lewis Creek. I wanted to hug her and find a way to help her. I wanted her and Austin together. I loved how things developed between them. It was natural and slow and realistic. Friends to more is a trope I've always loved and that's exactly what I got from Play On.

There's so much more to Play On than baseball and romance though. Not only is Austin looking towards the future, he's trying to reconcile the past with his father's death. It touches on suicide and mental health, but without being overwhelming. One of my favorite secondary stories is that of two of Austin's teammates who are gay. They're coming to terms with what that means and the impact it has on them in a small town. There are some great friendships and just a fantastic all-around story. I seriously couldn't ask for more from a book.

This book broke my heart. It put it back together. I'm an emotional reader, so reading it in public was ill-advised. It's been a long time since I was as lost in the setting for a book as I was while reading Play On. I felt like I was in this small town in Texas. The magic of the baseball field came through on the pages. It made me nostalgic. I wasn't just reading it. It felt like I was living it. My emotions were in a tizzy throughout this book. One minute I was laughing, the next I was getting teary-eyed over an emotional scene. Austin's narration was so honest, so raw, it made me feel everything he was feeling. This is the type of book you just get totally lost in. And then when it's over? You have absolutely no idea what to do with yourself.

Play On is my favorite YA of 2015 so far. I have a feeling it will end the year very near the top of the list, too.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Wendy.
810 reviews102 followers
September 13, 2015
Immediate reaction: This was so good!! I nearly cried at the end.

Originally posted on: Book Scents

You all know I love my sporty books. Play On has just earned a spot on my list of fave sporty books! It seriously had everything I love and want in a sporty book. Play On was like Friday Night Lights, baseball edition. It's not only about a game but also about family and love and friendship and everything that goes into those things.

Austin Braxton is all set to head off to USC on scholarship in the fall (me, being a silly west coast girl at first assumed the wrong school, OOPS!) -- except he needs to pass Chemistry first. The good looking new girl that's just moved into town happens to be a chemistry genius (and legit baseball fan to boot!) and offers to tutor him. I really loved these two! So the book is told from Austin's POV and let me just say, Austin is hilarious. I absolutely loved his inner dialogue -- cracked me up. The teen voice also seemed very accurate and spot on to me. I loved getting to know Marisa and seeing her and Austin's relationship slowly becoming a thing and then growing. She is awesome. There are things in both Austin and Marisa's past that they have to learn from each other and I really enjoyed seeing that. Play On addresses multiple issues that I think were talked about and handled really well. Personally, I feel like it was pretty eye opening.

The baseball aspect. So I am a diehard football girl. I don't really like watching baseball, like on TV and such. It doesn't really capture my attention. Going to games and hanging out with people and eating food and such I am down with. However! All that to say that while reading Play On, I was enraptured by the game. The feel of baseball, of playing, the passion Austin had for it and the Coach and the whole team being a family -- I loved absolutely every single detail. Remember when I said it is like Friday Night Lights but with baseball? You get that same heart swelling emotion and it made me want to yell clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! I started wanting to watch baseball as I read because just from Austin's thoughts, that love for baseball is just so palpable that it just spreads. Michelle captured that love and passion for the game in her descriptions and in the characters' interactions so well! And Coach! Gah! He was so much a father figure to Austin and I seriously loved him.

My other favorite part of this story? Austin's two friends Brett and Jay. I ADORED THESE TWO. I loved the comradery between these three as they start their final season together. They've got each other's backs. And I loved how things played out but you know, spoilers so. Just know I seriously could not love two secondary characters more. <3

In Short...

Play On isn't just a story about baseball and it isn't just a story about two people falling in love -- it's so much more! It's about family and forgiveness, about support and friendship, about passion and heart, and is just truly a great story! Just trust me and read it!!
Profile Image for Brooke's Epic Emporium.
879 reviews189 followers
April 13, 2015
I want to thank Spencer Hill Press for providing me with a copy of this book to read and give an honest review. Receiving this book for free has in no way altered my thoughts or review.

I have been very in contemporary reads lately. Especially YA contemporary reads. So given the chance to read this book, which also includes a sports theme, I jumped on it.

One of the things I think I enjoyed the most about this book is it's told from the male point of view. There is just something about YA books told from that point of view that really appeal to me. Maybe it's because we don't often see books sole from this POV. Usually when I do encounter books that include the male POV they are dual POV. So it was nice to see this told from a guy's perspective.

What can I say about Austin. I really loved him. He's sweet and loving and extremely caring about his friends and family. He also holds on to a secret about his father's death that only those closest to him know. And he's been nursing a broken heart for a bit since his girlfriend broke up with him when she graduated and went off to college. His life revolves around baseball and making sure he graduates so he can get the heck out of dodge. But he's not doing so well in his chemistry class and he's afraid he'll fail and lose his scholarship to play ball. He never expects to meet someone that will change how he thinks and sees the world.

Enter Marisa. She's a science nerd who offers to help him with chemistry. Not ready for a relationship, she holds secrets of her own. As Austin slowly breaks down her barriers and learns more and more about her, he sees that she's not the put together person he thought she was. And slowly, they both learn that the secrets that they hold will eat them up inside if they don't let others in.

This book is full of sweet moments and also moments of heartache that tore me apart. It's also full of friendship. And the side line plots do not detract from the main elements of the book in any way. The side plots do a great job in fleshing out Austin's character. He's so strong, even though he has moments where he thinks he's weak. There's nothing that will stand between him and his friendships or those he loves. And the way he fights for it all makes me love him even more. Some of the greatest moments of the book are Austin's interactions with his baseball teammates.

This book is a hidden gem that needs to be read! If you're a fan of Julie Cross' Whatever Life Throws at you, Katie' McGarry's Dare You Too, or the show Friday Night Lights, then this is the read for you. It combines humor, tenderness, and honest life lessons that anyone can relate to. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Deyse .
290 reviews26 followers
July 15, 2016
This book saved a what would be a pretty bad day into a good day.

- it started out seeming like a fluffy read but it ended up touching on a very meaningful way on depression - specially liked the way it dealt with meds + psychotherapy; the hospitalization part really touched me, it's important to show that sometimes this is a necessary mesure and that we should not hide from it because of tabus or fear. It's never a issue book, but I did teared up at some points because there was some intense feelings, but for the most part it's a light and funny read, perfect to relax.

- the romance starts out as a kind of instalove/instacrush but since the book is basically the whole development of this relationship I'm cool with it, it was well done, Austin and Marisa banter put a silly smile on my face.

- oh also, this book managed to pull off some very cheese scenes/phrases and I didn't even rolled my eyes at it or started thinking that no one in real life would do/say that, that is a great accomplishment.

- please give me at least a novella about Jay and Brett relationship, pretty please.

- I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed the sport aspect of this novel, I'm not into baseball at all but I loved reading abou their sense of belonging in this group, and how they really are a family not only on the field and practices, but also supported each other at all times.

- I loved Austin, he just breaks so many stereotypes for like having feelings and owning it, I specially liked the fact that he actually cares about his grades, a lot of it is because of baseball of course, but he genuinely worries about it.

- also, this book totally gave me some One Tree Hill feelings.
Profile Image for Sara  Gad .
37 reviews11 followers
August 17, 2020
Read it.

Read it now.

I'm not gonna lie, I had mediocre expectations for this book. I didn't expect to hate it, I bought it after all, but I expected it to be like a lot of other teen romances I've read.

Well this book isn't a teen romance.

I mean there's romance in it, but that's definitely not it was about to me. This book was about one Lewis Creek, one Austin Braxton and everyone around him. I didn't expect to cry reading this book AT ALL
This book isn't about a boy and a girl who fall in love.

This book is about a girl who struggles with depression.

This book is about a boy who has to come to terms with the choice his father made.

This book is about a group of boys, four in particular, who are like brothers.

This book is about two boys who have to hide who they are out of fear.

This book has to be read by everyone on Goodreads because it's amazing. Let me tell you, I cried a lot. The characters were all so realistic, even the ones we didn't see as much, like Eric. Which is another thing. If you want a book that has strong male friendships, a rarity in today's YA novels, this book is for you. The relationship between Austin, Brett, Eric and Jay was by far my favourite thing of the novel.

I will impatiently be waiting for Game On.
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,191 reviews278 followers
November 28, 2016
Play On is a very southern romantic contemporary. Austin has all that southern charm. He was a very nice guy. You know sweet as pie with that small side of mischief. Marisa I liked. But she's not memorable as a romantic interest. What I'll remember from her is the way Smith dealt with her depression. Which I thought was done realistically. It showed the rough patches. But also Marisa had that you don't have to understand it but you do have to get it attitude with Austin. And I thought yea, it's true. Unless you're experiencing something as complex as depression you probably will never understand exactly what the person is feeling. But as a loved one you would be expected to be able to love them and be there for them. So, well done. My problem was not totally being invested in their relationship. The great thing was that the side characters had shit going on that was fully explored and dealt with and one of those stories I was super invested in. I'm hoping they get a book of their own in the future. Overall, a pretty solid YA contemp with decent amount of baseball involved.
Profile Image for Tee loves Kyle Jacobson.
2,474 reviews170 followers
June 16, 2015
Play on is one of those books that will stay with you for a long time.

I love small town stories. In Play On we get to see a whole town devoted to Baseball and the players. The better you are the quicker you can get out of town and play for the Majors.

We meet All Start Pitcher Austin Braxton. He eats, sleeps, and breaths baseball. He is in his senior year and guaranteed a college scholarship to play baseball but there is one thing standing in his way. His Chemistry class. He just can't get it and he is struggling and told if he can't pass it he will have no playing time which means no scholarship.

That is when Austin remembers Marisa the new girl working for his mother. He asks her to help him out with his Chem class and she agrees. As they spend more time together Austin learns about himself and his town and Marisa comes face to face with her issues she ran from.

These two will have to help each other out and the only way to do that is to support each other. Can they do that??????? or will baseball be the one and only thing left for Austin.
Profile Image for Katie.
516 reviews189 followers
July 15, 2015
this was SO good!! I am a sucker for any book about a baseball player but add in a sweet southern twist and I'm hooked.

This book did a great job of dealing with tough subjects without being too heavy. I really liked the honest portrayal of trying to understand depression.

Highly, highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Katherine Locke.
Author 14 books505 followers
April 18, 2015
THIS BLEW MY MIND WITH THE AWESOME. Seriously. Stop whatever you're doing, whatever you are reading, and go. get. this. book. THIS was amazing. This book is going to be one I'm shoving at people the way I shove Brooklyn, Burning because I think PLAY ON is important like that. It's heartwrenching, heartwarming, AUTHENTIC, genuine, and important.

Austin feels like a real teenage boy, the baseball parts are on point without ever being too much for a reader who isn't a fan or doesn't know the first thing about baseball, and the town and community feel real.

The small town feel reminded me of my hometown though we weren't sports fanatics but I really love that in books and it comes through so well here. The part where a small town is both a saving grace and a downfall. It holds you up, and also everyone knows your business.

The mental illness parts were handled truthfully, honestly, hopefully and realistically. That's a HARD line to walk as a writer, to get across the seriousness and the realism of the situation without ever losing readers and giving home to the readers who might empathize with Marisa. Austin's anger toward his father and his frustration and fear with Marisa are also genuine and well portrayed.

But my favorite parts were Austin and his teammates. Great friendships, SOLID male friendships shown here and I think sometimes those get lost in the mix for YA books. Smith handles these deftly.

This is a STUNNING debut. Smith is definitely an autp-buy author for me now and I'm really, really impressed. I do not just gush like this for no reason. I only gush like this when I'm floored, wiping puddles of jealous drool up from around me, when I cry on the train and giggle and laugh, and take screenshots of my favorite lines. AND MAN, THAT FIRST KISS SCENE THOUGH.

Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,100 reviews130 followers
August 3, 2015
Oh, you guys, this book. This sweet, perfect, heartbreaking book.

I had heard people talk about it, but hadn't really heard details. Based on the cover, I was expecting a fluffy love story, the kind that will make me smile and go "Awwwwwwwwww" at least 37 times. I got that, but there's so much more to it than that.

Marisa suffers from depression, and it's a battle that she's almost lost a few times. Meanwhile, all Austin has is baseball. He's a great pitcher, and he knows it's his ticket out of his small town. The last thing he needs---the last thing either of them needs---is to get distracted.

And yet, of course you know what will happen.

And it does. And it's perfect.

I love this book so much. I love every character in it so much.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Candice Montgomery.
Author 6 books172 followers
July 15, 2015
It's fitting that I would start this book after a session with my therapist and finish this book after a session with my therapist. There's not nearly enough books in the world that make me feel the way this one did. The romance was brilliant and heart-melty. The characters were true. The setting was alive and real. And the hard topics were beautifully executed from start to finish. I'm no fan of baseball, but I'm a football girl through-and-through, and we know the good sports novels when they hits us.
Profile Image for Shay.
538 reviews23 followers
August 16, 2015
Austin Braxton just got added to my book boyfriend list!
Profile Image for Selene.
595 reviews134 followers
April 15, 2020
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thank you NetGalley and Spencer Hill Press for the advanced reading copy of Play On by Michelle Smith.

This is a young adult sports romance about a small town boy named Austin who lives for baseball and falls for the new girl Marisa. Marisa is a smart and easily likeable character who helps Austin improve his grade in chemistry in order for him to continue playing baseball for his high school team.

What started out as an endearing friendship became something more when they confided in one another with their deepest secrets and supported each other through their hardships.

This was a great debut novel that I would recommend to readers of Emma Mills and Jenn Bennett.
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