Sports books AKA books where sports happen usually aren’t my thing, but if they’re like Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin, then I will read ALL of them. I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but what I got was so goooood. Finding your people, dealing with internalized misogyny, and discovering love where you never expected it. FUCK YES.
Alright, let’s get to the review!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.
Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.
Mara just got kicked off the basketball team and she is PISSED.
She punched one of her teammates, Carly, for telling their coach Mara might have a concussion and needed to sit out. Mara…has some anger lol.
But if she never got kicked off of the basketball team, this story wouldn’t have gotten very far.
While stewing over how to get back on the team, Mara throws out the idea of joining the football team to her best friend, Quinn, and when he claims it to be “genius,” she decides to go for it.
At first, the other guys on the team are not enthused with playing with a girl, but as they see her skills and her ability to “hang” with the guys, they come to accept her.
Everything changes when four girls, inspired by Mara’s action, decide to join the team too. Mara is less than pleased. She joined the team because she’s good at it, because it’s what she likes. To her, these girls are not doing it for the right reasons, especially Carly who is clearly just joining to make a statement.
Mara’s crush, Valentina, also joins the team which throws her for a loop. Two other girls from school, River and Tayley also join the team (and they are delightful!)
But when she sees that the coach won’t even teach the new girls how to play or what certain maneuvers are, she takes matters into her own hands. This, along with most of the dudes being awful shitheads anyway, leads to them treating Mara as shittily (I insist that’s a word) as they do the other girls.
The worst part, at least to Mara, is that Quinn, her supposed best friend, seems to lump her in with the other girls too.
Mara tries to show them that she is not “like other girls” but she doesn’t have much luck.
It isn’t until she really starts to get to know the other girls and after Quinn betrays her in the worst possible way that she starts to see what’s really going on. She starts to open her eyes to the misogyny. It’s only then that Mara begins to see them as her friends (and maybe something a little more…) and they all start to support each other.
While this is going on, Mara also works at a hardware store and that’s where she meets Jupiter, a gay woman, who recently moved into the area. Mara is a bit enthralled with her as she is the first out gay woman she’s ever met. Mara is gay but for most of the story, she’s not out to anyone. She would love to have the freedom of being out, but with the way her life is, she can hardly imagine it.
Jupiter has Mara help her on her farm while her partner, Reese, is away and they form a strong bond. Unfortunately, when Mara’s mother finds out about Jupiter, she bans Mara from hanging out with her. Mara’s mother wants her to wear dresses and be like a “classic girl.” She certainly doesn’t want her playing football. Mara would rather vomit than be anything but who she is.
As Mara deals with the misogyny, the bullshit from Quinn, her mom’s underlying homophobia, and trying to figure out if she wants to be out (if that’s a safe option), she begins to open herself up to new possibilities. Possibilities like having friends who truly support her, being in a relationship with an maybe enemy, having someone she can look up to, and eventually, knowing the path she wants to take.
This is such a badass book. It was so easy to give Like Other Girls 5 stars. I loved Mara (even when she was a ball of internalized misogyny). I loved Carly and Valentina and Tayley and River. I loved Ranger, one of the only boys who actually supported the girls (although, he certainly could have done more). I LOVED the support the girls showed each other. It gave me happy chills and made me weepy.
I also LOOOVED that Mara was able to see an example of a happy and healthy queer relationship between Jupiter and Reese. It means a lot to her.
If you love YA contemporary LGBT+ books, you HAVE to read this!
Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin is available now!
Thank you to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.
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