Top of Her Game by M. Ullrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I am not a big sports fan personally, but the author does a good job of keeping my attention during the parts that actually involve soccer. The real content of this story comes more from the characters getting over obstacles presented to them after being a couple than them actually getting together. There was a decent amount of non-relationship drama and the story took turns I hadn’t anticipated. I really liked that it was not predictable to me.
My only complaint really just comes from what one of the main characters classifies as “waiting to have sex.” It wasn’t a deal breaker, but I couldn’t help but feel like it crossed the line a bit of what is or isn’t having sex.
Full Review with Spoilers
I am not big on sports. I don’t like watching them on television at all. I had some reservations going into this book. I was however, pleasantly surprised. I will not lie, the bits of the story that focused solely on the soccer dragged just a bit for me. Not that they were bad, sports just don’t hold my attention as well. I can’t comment on the realism involved in the game, training, terminology, etc., because I just don’t know how accurate or realistic it was. I can say that there was a decent amount of drama and character development during the actual game and practice scenes that I didn’t feel as if I wanted to skip anything. While they dragged, I didn’t find them to be boring.
I enjoyed both of the main characters a great deal. Kenzie was likable and very relatable to me. I found her shy demeanor enduring and I appreciated that her obvious skill and the attention she received did not become a character changing flaw. Her love interest, Sutton was very similar to me. I liked that there wasn’t an emphasis on her being famous and arrogant about it.
The fact that Sutton was already in a seemingly happy relationship was a nice change of pace for the story. It added an element that I don’t get to read often that I enjoyed. I appreciated that as a character she took the time to analyze her relationship before letting her feelings toward Kenzie dictate her actions. In the same vein, I was really happy to she Kenzie handle the situation like a responsible adult. I was worried there would be a cheating element brought into the story and was so very happy to see it wasn’t. I have to admit though I was a little disappointed to see Sutton’s ex Rhea so easily dismissed after the break up. I would have liked to see her maybe find someone or at least see her mentioned again before the end of the story.
There was much more to this book than a simple love story. The main characters admit their feelings and start a relationship at about a third of the way through. They spend the rest of the book navigating the idea of being in a relationship while being essentially celebrities. I liked the drama of them finding ways to skirt around rules and be respectful to their team. It was refreshing and different. The fact that sex itself was also not a majoring driving factor in the beginning was also a huge draw for me.
On that note though, I do have to say I can’t decide how I feel about Kenzie insisting they wait to have sex, but allows them to come close enough to it that I wondered what exactly she defined as sex. I kind of felt like it was cheating the wait to have sex idea by still letting them get gratification with one another. Yes the clothing stayed on, but I kind of feel like it made the actual sex scene just slightly less meaningful to me.
In addition to the general relationship drama, the story also includes some extremely heavy themes of sexual harassment against women. I had not expected this to come about, but I thought it was well handled and really added tension to the story and the relationship. It was a bit hard to read, but in a good way. It was honestly and eye opening. I felt like the story turned in some pleasantly unpredictable ways and I was very interested in finding out how things would end for Kenzie and Sutton.
Overall, a well crafted book that made me interested in subjects I wouldn’t normally seek out.