TJR Is Back…But Not Better Than Ever

Written by: Sophie Archambault

I eagerly anticipated the release of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest book, Carrie Soto is Back, so when I finally got my hands on it this winter I jumped right in. I have loved Reid since my first exposure to her with Daisy Jones and the Six, a chronicle of the rise and fall of a ’70s rock band told through interviews, so I was excited for her to bring me into a new era of her Hollywood universe. (For more on Reid’s fictionalized Hollywood, check out my blog post here.)

Carrie Soto is Back takes on yet another facet of fame and celebrity: the world of professional sports. Carrie Soto is a champion tennis player who has a brief appearance in Malibu Rising as the mistress of another character. Here, though, she takes center stage as she comes out of retirement to defend her world record. The story is told from Carrie’s point of view as she fights her way back to the top.

As I said, I was excited for this book, but it fell short of my expectations. I have to confess I am not a sports girlie and perhaps someone who is would appreciate this book more; while I do love an inspirational sports movie, what I’m drawn to is the intensity of the relationships between teammates, the epic highs and lows. This book just didn’t have enough of that; it stuck too closely to tennis for my taste.

Obviously, as a book about a world-renowned tennis champ, the sport has to take a prominent role, but I felt that it overtook the character at the heart of the story. Much of the story was play-by-plays of tennis matches and, while Carrie does have shifting relationships with other characters which are important to personal and plot development, they are overshadowed by the technicalities of the game. Reid’s other novels feature characters who are professionals in their fields—theatre, music, modeling, surfing—but the characters are able to stand out from these industry backdrops, whereas Carrie Soto gets lost in hers. 

Much was well done in the book. Reid always does her research and the ’90s tennis-sphere was vivid—you can feel the sun baking the courts and hear the thwack of racket hitting ball. Carrie herself is rendered well in all her complexity; she’s not a character who’s easy to love, but Reid makes you root for her despite her faults. However, I was left wanting more from nearly every character and interaction. Overall, Carrie Soto is Back just didn’t measure up to Reid’s previous accomplishments, so here’s hoping her next book is a return to the TJR I know and love. 

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