Game On by Michelle Smith isn’t quite a home run, but it’s still a great hit.
In Lewis Creek, baseball reigns and the residents treat the starting pitcher like a king. When notorious party boy Eric Perry takes the mound, one bad decision may cost him his title. To settle his most recent scandal, the coach forces Eric to complete community service with the girl next door. Eric and Bri used to be best friends… until she started dating his enemy on the team. Can Eric save his spot on the team and his friendship with Bri?
When I read the synopsis for this book, I expected something a little different. In the synopsis, there is a heavy emphasis on Eric’s partying ways, the community service, and his relationship with Bri. Even though I liked a few of the different directions that this novel went, I can’t say that I wasn’t slightly disappointed because I expected a little more romance in this book. Just for reference, this book is the second book in a series, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to read the first book. Like with Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson books, previous characters appear but it isn’t necessary to know their full stories before reading this one.
The book is told in alternating POVs between Eric and Bri. Both are likable characters with unique voices who grow tremendously throughout the novel. There were only a few minor problems that I had with their characters. For example, sometimes the descriptions of Bri verged on “girl in a country song” territory. Eric frequently referred to her long legs, what she wore, and how hot she looked even after rolling out of bed early on a Saturday morning to volunteer.
I had mixed feeling about the other characters. The side characters, like Matt and Becca, on the other hand weren’t really developed and respectively played the villain and supportive best friend. I also had a few problems with Coach Taylor. On one hand, he seemed like a great guy who helped Bri after her dysfunctional relationship. On the other hand, he seemed extremely inconsistent with holding students accountable for their actions. I knew the author wanted me to root for him, but I didn’t always feel that way.
One of the best aspects of this book would have to be the setting. The author captured the small town atmosphere perfectly! The dialogue was extremely authentic and I could picture all of Lewis Creek’s hot spots in my own hometown.
I also appreciated how the author addressed mental and emotional abuse. In the beginning of the book, Bri’s dating one of the beloved baseball boys and class president. However, he frequently criticizes her appearance, calls in the middle of the night, and “apologizes” by blaming her for causing his reaction. Overall, I thought the author handled this topic very well. One moment that really stood out to me was when another girl told Bri to stop dragging the breakup out and be nice to Matt because it wasn’t like he physically abused her. I think this really hit the nail on the head on many misconceptions about abuse.
While I enjoyed many aspects of this book, there is one major part of the book that I wish was different. From the synopsis of this book, you expect that Eric and Bri’s romance starts early on and that their relationship is something they’re hiding from the town. That’s not how it plays out. I appreciated that Eric and Bri’s relationship grew gradually, but it felt like certain events were thrown in the book to keep them apart longer, which is definitely a pet peeve of mine. I also thought we didn’t see enough of Eric’s community service, even though it ended up having a major impact on his decisions later.
While, I enjoyed many aspects of this book, it didn’t have the same spark as some of my other favorite contemporaries. While this book wasn’t a grand slam for me, I still give it four out of five stars for the authentic characters and plot.
*I received this free eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.