Editorial note: I received a copy of Carrie Soto Is Back in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a captivating novel about an all-star athlete’s return to the sport. It’s fantastic!
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors and I truly love each of her novels. My top picks are Daisy Jones and Evelyn Hugo but you really can’t go wrong with any of her books (check out my full ranking here).
She released in Malibu Rising in 2021, which I also quite enjoyed, but I figured we wouldn’t get a new novel from her for a couple years. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she would in fact release a book this year, featuring a side character from Malibu Rising: Carrie Soto.
If you haven’t read Malibu Rising, Carrie Soto is actually the woman having an affair with the protagonist Nina Riva’s husband (this isn’t a spoiler as it happens early on in the novel). To be honest, I thought a novel featuring this character was an odd choice at first. Carrie wasn’t that memorable to me from Malibu Rising.
But after reading Carrie Soto Is Back, I can confirm her story needed to be told. Carrie is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve read in some time. She’s a series of contradictions in many ways: guarded, raw, honest, confident, insecure and the list goes on.
And as much as I liked Malibu Rising, I actually enjoyed Carrie Soto Is Back even more. So I need to update my ranking list!
What’s the Story About
Carrie Soto is a one of kind tennis player. By the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best.
However, a rising tennis player named Nicki Chan is breaking Carrie’s records one by one.
Ever the competitor, Carrie decides to come out of retirement and be coached by her father once again in order to reclaim her record. But between battling unfair media stereotypes to training with an ex-fling Bowe Huntley, Carrie has her work cut out for her.
But losing is not an option to Carrie. And she will do what it takes to regain what she believes is hers.
I’m a fairly big sports fan but I will say that tennis has never been my sport of choice. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a game. I do, however, very much respect the athletes who play it such as Serena Williams. I fully understand what a hard and gritty sport it is.
There is something interesting about games that aren’t team sports—it’s really on that person to win or lose. They win, it’s all on them. They lose, it’s all on them. I think there’s so much more that happens mentally with those kind of sports. It takes a special kind of competitiveness to play sports like tennis.
That said, the tennis focus was a little much for me at first. While it’s quite interesting to learn just how much hard work and training goes into being a star tennis athlete, there is a ton of play-by-play scenes. But I actually came to enjoy those as the novel went on. It just took some time.
Once Carrie is playing in tournaments again, the story is engaging and mesmerizing.
If you’re not a fan of tennis, don’t let it deter you but also keep in mind, it really is quite a focus of the novel. But it becomes quite fun and also intense during the matches. I can totally see how this would play well on the big screen or a TV adaptation.
Carrie Soto is one of the most unique and vivid characters I’ve read in a long time. She is one hundred percent herself and believes she is the absolute best at tennis. And there’s no debate.
The story takes places in the early 1990s and the media coverage of Carrie is quite sexist and derogatory. She is called the ‘b’ word for being confident and trash talking other opponents. But you see it happen all the time with male athletes and they are always praised.
I don’t think much has changed in that regard—look at how the media covered the US Women’s Soccer Team on their championship run. It was a very similar hostile tone that is only reserved for women sports.
Carie takes a bit to warm up to and I loved that. She’s so complicated but also unapologetic—she is who she is. Still, she has much to learn too. And she does grow quite a bit in this novel. I think her growth arc is so strong and impactful and completely makes sense to the core of the character.
Also, I loved her relationship with her father. The dynamic is so good. He was one of my favorite characters by far.
I loved this novel. I finished it a couple days ago and I’m still thinking about it and Carrie’s story. Everything about this novel just shines bright. Don’t miss out on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing—she is the one of the best of this era.
Yes, this novel is about tennis. But it’s also about so much more.
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