Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college–and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain–or finally heal their heartbreak?
Going into a read like this, I think it is important to know what you have in store. This is a story of two people overcoming tragic events in their lives that have caused them to retract within themselves. When they meet, they push each other to break free from those restraints. There is a love triangle. There is cheating. BUT, it all made for one touching, sweet and realistic novel that I enjoyed immensely.
We start off the novel by meeting one of our main characters, Chelsea, and learning about the tragic event and injury that took her away from her dreams in basketball. We also meet her boyfriend Gabe, right before she heads out if town with her family on vacation for a few weeks, and her ‘boot camp’ with our other main character, Clint. The pace was a little slow for me up until these characters met and developed a connection to each other, but once they did I was hooked. Their struggle to hide their attraction kept me on the edge, wondering what would push them to finally give in and step into that territory they so were trying to avoid.
The characters in Playing Hurt are not perfect, but I don’t always need them to be. And you know heading into this that you are dealing with a girl who is conflicted with her life, including the love aspect. It’s okay to see the flawed person and how they work through what predicaments they find themselves in. Of course there were quite a few moments where I wanted to hit Chelsea and ask her what the hell she was doing, but honestly, I can say the same thing when I reflect on my own youth. What is so great with what the author has done here is that despite the less than desirable situation, you as the reader grow attached and root for the characters to find a way to get through it. Part of what made it so hard is that the boyfriend Gabe isn’t a jerk. He doesn’t ignore her or treat her crappy, IN FACT he is almost disgustingly romantic and TOO perfect. Maybe that’s what her problem was. Maybe she was bored and Gabe was not what she needed after her injury. It might sound horrible, but I think it is true for these characters. I absolutely loved Clint. He was a stand up guy who was incredibly sad and lonely. He needed the challenge just as much as Chelsea did.
Up until the last couple of chapters, I had no idea what would happen, how anything would be resolved. But then… it just does. And perfectly, in my opinion. I would absolutely recommend this read if you love a good realistic contemporary.
Clint picks up my hand, puts it against his chest. I can feel his heart beating so hard it must hurt. “That’s for you,” he whispers.
**I would recommend this novel for older teens and up due to sexual content.