Because I clearly don't have enough on my plate, I decided to sign up for BookSparks' 2014 Summer Reading Challenge, where I will be sent an early copy of an upcoming novel, in exchange for writing an honest review. I love books and I love writing reviews, so let's do this thing. If I complete the entire challenge, I'll be writing one review a week until September.
The first book on the challenge is Emily Giffin's The One and Only. I've read all of Giffin's other novels and she is a favorite author of mine, writing chick-lit that's easy enough for a beach read, but carries enough emotional content to be taken seriously. I was excited to have her novel first up, as it is the only book on the challenge from an author that I recognize and a book that I would have made sure to buy upon release.
The One and Only follows Shea Rigsby, a life-long football fan, turned sports writer. Shea is a bit of a free spirit and a contrast to her childhood best friend, Lucy. Lucy is married with a small child and owns her own designer clothing store. Lucy has taken a predictable and safe path in life and she wants nothing more than to see her best friend settle down with a husband and a stable career. Shea doesn't know what she wants in life. She drifts through different relationships and has spent her working life in a job, rather than a career. She is stalling.
Unfortunately, Shea has taken an interest in Lucy's father, the recently widowed football coach at her alma matter, Walker University. Shea bleed teal for everything Walker Football and also has a idol worship situation towards Coach Carr. Through most of the book it is a mystery as to whether Shea is attracted to him for the man he is or for what he represents.
Despite all of the football jargon and two main characters (Shea and Lucy) that were fairly unlikeable, the story did hold my interest. I found the dynamic between Shea and Lucy, childhood friends who cannot relate as adults, to be captivating. It's a hard thing to grow apart from someone with whom you were once so close, especially if you have been treated as part of their family. Shea and Lucy try to navigate these tricky waters and still have a relationship, even when things have been strained. It's a compelling scenario.
The other heart of the story is whether or not Shea is interested in this much older man, because he is her hero, he represents a father figure or she really loves him. There is much mention of her very broken childhood and her absent father, so this theme keeps replaying itself, especially when Coach Carr rescues her in a fatherly manner from a scary situation. The lines are blurred. Sometimes this made for a very uncomfortable story to read, although the taboo subject kept me interested.
The story is about grey areas and following your gut instinct.
Overall, I'd recommend The One and Only for fan's of Giffin's novels. I don't think that it's her strongest effort, but it was still a page turner. I plowed through it in just over twenty-four hours and skipped a lot of more important tasks to read "just one more chapter". Giffin is a solid storyteller and a writer worth checking out.