As king of baseball in the small town of Lewis Creek, Eric Perry can have any girl he wants and win every game he plays. But when a fight lands him in jail, he’s only got one more strike before his baseball career is over for good. His only chance for redemption? The girl next door, Bri Johnson.
Bri hasn’t talked to Eric in months— for starters, she’s been too busy dealing with her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, not to mention the fact that Eric’s been preoccupied trying to drink every keg in the country dry. But when he needs a way to stay on the team, she proposes a plan: if he helps her out with community service, he can stay on the team. At first it’s a nightmare—Eric and Bri stopped being friends years ago, surely that was for a good reason, right? But as volunteering turns to bonding over old memories of first kisses under the stars, they start to have trouble remembering what pushed them apart.
In a town as small as Lewis Creek, nothing stays secret for long and their friendship and romance might mean bad news. But in this final, tumultuous spring before graduation, Eric and Bri are about to realize that nobody’s perfect alone, but they might just be perfect together.
Since falling in love with Michelle Smith’s Play On, I’ve been wanting to read the next book in the Lewis Creek series. After all, small town stories and YA sports romances are two things I really enjoy and Michelle never fails to deliver them wonderfully. In fact, this book just solidified my belief that everything she writes is endearing and heartfelt.
“Stars are amazing. Some nights they shine brightly, showing off their brilliance. Some nights are a little dimmer than others, but you can still see the light. And some nights, they’re hidden behind the clouds. But even after all those nights of being hidden, after all those nights of being suffocated by the clouds, they show back up to shine. Stars are like people, if you really think about it.”
Game On is all about Eric, the town’s new starting pitcher, and Bri, his neighbor struggling with a toxic relationship. The really great thing about Michelle Smith is that she knows how to make you root for and care for her characters. They’re just so precious and you can’t help but want the best for them. You can’t help but wish that her characters weren’t fictional because they’re hella charming and you just want to be their best friend.
“Be still, my heart. No seriously, be still, please. I’m slightly terrified of heart failure.”
Eric, for one, isn’t just a star athlete with a bad reputation. He’s also a very sweet, caring guy who just happened to have made past mistakes. Since Game On has dual point of views, we’re able to understand Eric’s character and see that he’s more than what everyone thinks of him. Also, it’s so wonderful to read about how smitten he is with Bri later on as the story develops. He’s definitely one of my book boyfriends.
“It’s weird, when you get the thing that you wanted the most, the thing you’ve worked your ass off for, and all it does is send you into a spiral of “what the hell did I get myself into.”
Although I really enjoyed Eric’s narrative, I think I connected with Bri more. It broke my heart so much, seeing her fight the hurt that came from her experience with her emotionally abusive boyfriend. It just sucks to think that guys out there treated girls so badly and it made me angry for Bri, and for girls like her who’ve gone through the same thing. But most of all, it made me want to stand behind these girls and see them get past their demons and become happy. I lost count of the times I wanted to hug Bri because of how her emotions affected me and because of how much I admired her inner strength.
“Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak. Being sad doesn’t mean you’re weak. Those things—they mean you’re human. Those things can knock you on your backside, and it still doesn’t mean you’re weak in the slightest. Strength is in the standing. And I’ve seen you do an awful lot of standing over these past few months.”
Besides the main characters, I was fond of the rest of the cast, especially Blake and Becca, Eric and Bri’s best friends respectively. Other than the fact that I shipped these two and want nothing more than a spin-off with their story from Michelle, I also really appreciated the fact that they were there for their friends in times of need.
“We’re probably just a stop on its way to wherever.” “Isn’t that so weird?” she says. “Like, it could be on its way to somewhere phenomenal, but to get there, it has to pass through a podunk place like this.” It is weird. And true. “Maybe sometimes we have to go through the crappy places to get to the good ones.” She nudges me with her elbow, and I glance over. She smiles. Holds out her cup. “Here’s to surviving the crappy places.” I tap her cup with mine. “And here’s to the phenomenal ones.”
Also, I was happy to see Eric’s brother, Brett, who appeared in Play On, as well as Austin and Jay. This is why I love companion novels like Game On– I enjoy reading bits about how previous characters are doing.
“In all the stories I’ve read, people say that falling for someone is like fireworks. That’s how it was with Matt: the fall was hard and fast, and we crashed and burned. But maybe it’s not always that. Maybe it comes slowly sometimes. Maybe it’s more like a constellation: One star connects to another, and then another, and then another. And then suddenly, hundreds of little things have connected to form a really big thing. And those big things? They become everything.”
The romance, of course, is something that really got me hooked in Game On. Because the characters are so well-developed and are so darling, it was easy to fall in love right there with Eric and Bri as they began to grow so much closer. I loved the slow-burn and how they didn’t want to rush things, knowing that they weren’t ready, despite the crazy attraction between them. I think it was so great that Eric gives Bri the space she needs to become her own person and Bri encourages Eric to step up and wish more YA contemporaries show romances with healthy, good-for-each-other relationships.
“My heart doesn’t want to be held. My heart wants to learn to beat on its own for a while.”
Game On is an absolute delight of a read! A fabulous book with earnest characters and a sweet romance with many heartwarming moments, this novel will leave you wanting more from Michelle Smith.
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Someone cranks the music up, blasting it even louder across the field. Over by Bri, Blake grabs Becca and pulls her close, both of them grinning while moving to the music. I want that. I want that even more than beer, which is saying a lot. My gaze shifts to Bri. The fire casts its glow against her face as she talks to a junior girl, one from the soccer team. She looks amazing: jeans that fit her just right, boots that reach her knees, and her hair spilling across her white t-shirt. She glances over. Catches me watching her. Smirks.
Busted. But screw it. I’m goin’ in.
I hop off the tailgate and start in her direction, weaving through half the damn people from school to get there. Her friend quirks her lips as I come up behind Bri. Leaning down, I ask, “Dance with me?”
She turns her head just enough to say, “I don’t dance.”
She spins on her heel, looking up at me with wide, innocent eyes. “And why would you want to dance with me?”
Because she’s gorgeous. Because I want to grab her hand, to pull her against me, to look at those eyes all night. To hold her all night.
Because I’m crazy about her.
Instead of telling her that, I step forward. Run my hands down her arms, until they settle lightly on her wrists. Lean in and whisper, “Please?” beside her ear.
Her gaze locks on mine, her lips curving into this smile that nearly knocks me off my feet. “Since you asked so nicely.” Her hands slide into mine.
A new song starts, some country song that I don’t even know. Don’t really care to know. Because when she guides my hands to her hips and those hips match the music beat for beat, I’m 99 percent sure I’m having a freakin’ religious experience.
I keep up with her step for step, move for move, so in sync that I can’t help but think where else I want those hands. Where I want my hands.
I’m vaguely aware of the song ending. She gazes up at me, her chest rising with each breath, her lips parted slightly, those eyes sparkling, and dang it, it would be so. Damn. Easy to just do it. Just lean down and do it.
Before I can make a move, she presses herself against me. Slips her hand into my hair. And even though her touch is soft as cotton, it sets every inch of me on fire. She pulls me down to her, and then her lips are on mine, somehow both gentle and insistent, and the most perfect freakin’ thing on the face of this earth.
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