A fierce teen soccer player fights, hard, to become one of the world’s best.
Greenfeld (Triburbia, 2012, etc.) has a custom of inserting his personal experiences into his work, be it fiction or nonfiction, so it’s a refreshing change for him to so fully occupy a very different protagonist. Our narrator, Trudy, known to all as True, is a short, tomboyish teenage girl with a character-defining purpose: She really wants to play soccer and she really wants to win, and anyone who gets in the way of that goal is a fair target. The novel largely tracks her arc to make national teams, with the ultimate goal of joining the U.S. Women’s National Team. The challenges in her troubled life include her absent mother, who died in childbirth; a father slowly losing his spirit to gambling and depression; and the Richter-scale earthquake that is her younger sister Pauline, who is deeply autistic. When the book sticks to the pitch, it’s gripping stuff that employs painful descriptions of physically grueling training, gruesome injuries, and a determined fury sparked by competition. True doesn’t exactly inspire sympathy—the girl is mean, violent, and cracked in some very specific ways. But her single-minded pursuit of her goals makes for compelling reading, barring a few distracting sidebars like the boyfriend, the frenemy rival, and a dark episode near the end that nearly derails the plot despite being largely irrelevant. Readers should also know that although it stars a young adult, this is a very adult book with some sexuality, explicit language, and violence. In spirit and tone, this novel skews closer to the Walter Tevis cult classic The Queen’s Gambit (1983), about a similarly talented and tenacious young woman, than a mere sporting adventure.
An emotionally raw but engaging story of a woman who recognizes that her gift can help her escape.