Championing Contemporary YA: Playing Hurt

Championing Contemporary YA is a movement in celebration of June as the Contemporary month over at The Contemps. Dreamcatcher’s Lair will be championing Contemporaries that deserve being talked about.


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?

I regret having missed out on Holly Schindler’s debut, A Blue So Dark   (the book got lost in the mail) but I’m so glad I got a chance to read her sophomore novel. Because Playing Hurt was a lovely read.

It’s got
an ex-star basketball player
a hot boot camp trainer
heating things up
in the midst
of summer.

Easy, eh? I thought I had it all worked out. And yet I loved reading it.

Playing Hurt owes its success to characterization. Chelsea and Clint, the two main characters, whose PoVs you get to read in alternating chapters, are wonderfully written. They are these two young, sporty people who have been hurt and are broken so much that even sport can’t save them. No, they aren’t really moping all that. They are getting on with their lives, at least trying to,but that feeling of ‘wholeness’ that they had felt earlier is missing. The characters are complex. As you read you peel back layers that reveal what is really going on with them. For instance, I thought Clint’s past and the impact it’s had on his present was skillfully made known to the reader. The main characters are so life-like that the other, although equally well-drawn often diminish in comparison. Nevertheless, Schindler infuses originality in every character who enters her story.

And the writing? It’s gorgeous. Often poetic in places, deeply insightful in other, girlishly giggly at times, the author’s writing voice is not just strong, but embodies a variety of emotions.

What really rocks this book is THE ROMANCE. It’s smokin’. Clint and Chelsea share such hawt chemistry, I literally had to fan myself. But unlike in a lot of YA books, it isn’t just sexual tension that sparks things off, these are two people who have so much in common beside their ‘hurt’ pasts that if they were pieces of a puzzle they would fit together perfectly.

*His skin radiates so much of the day’s heat that touching him feels like wading into the lake, opening my hand, and catching one of the white shimmers of blistering afternoon sunlight bouncing across the water.

*Just touching her makes me want to immerse myself, put my head completely under the surface of her. I want to drift, to let her carry me away, down her current.

Other things I liked:
1. There’s a boyfriend back home for Chelsea. And he is not vilified.
2. Two very different family dynamics are explored. Chelsea’s relationship with her family palpitates with tension, especially with her Dad. Clint’s family, though is different.
3. The main characters are athletes! How cool is that? And with Chelsea, Schindler eats the girl-jock stereotype.
4. It’s older YA. The main characters are 18 and 19. And I loved that.
5. The last few chapters get shorter and shorter, as if wanting to make the reader feel ine urgency in the situation. And it succeeded in making me feel that way.

I’m now a Holly Schindler fan.

Because with Playing Hurt she didn’t just write the perfect summer romance with the most perfect ending (yes, it’s as perfect as it is plausible), she made me fly through her book with my heart racing in my throat, dying to find out what happens to Clint and Chelsea after the summer is over.

This is a sparkling story of love and trauma, need and desire, summer and sun, fear and courage that culminates into a perfect clandestine romance. I suggest you read it.

What do you think makes the perfect summer romance? 

PS. I’m sorry for having missed blogging the past two days. I’ve been ill and I don’t schedule posts so I lost out on those days. Nevertheless, I shall continue championing contemporary YA and I hope you will, too.

3 thoughts on “Championing Contemporary YA: Playing Hurt

  1. Lovely review! And an effective one, too, because this book is definitely going on my TBR list now 🙂 Sounds just like something I'd enjoy, and those passages are gorgeous.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s