Book: Like a Girl by Holly S. Roberts

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Sports Romance

Preferred Reading Environment: In a big comfy chair wearing your most comfortable sweats and comfy socks.

Reading Accoutrements: Beer! What goes better with a good football game?

It’s football season!!! I have been working my butt off at my jobs and missing all of my team’s games this year and it was giving me withdrawals. When I mentioned this to Jeriann, she suggested I should read a sports romance. I went with football because I found this book on Kindle awhile ago that explores what would happen if there was a female playing in the NFL. And how the heck could I resist that premise?

Like a Girl, by Holly S. Roberts, is the story of Jordan, a girl with a passion for football and a real talent for kicking that football. She played for a community college and has just been signed by a struggling NFL expansion team in Albuquerque, New Mexico because 1) they need publicity and 2) they need a kicker who can get the ball between the posts and, hopefully, win them some games. The quarterback of her new team, Aiden, is unsure how he feels about a girl invading the game he used to escape the excessive femininity of his household growing up. As team captain, Aiden has to publicly support Jordan’s addition to the team, even if he is relatively sure she won’t last the season.

Even though Roberts clearly did her research, I have to get this out of the way: the ability to suspend disbelief will make reading this book easier. I am really good at suspending disbelief and accepting changes in fictional worlds without overthinking it but when I set this book down and thought about it, I had a lot of dissonance floating through my brain. She made a few changes to reality to serve the purposes of her story – an NFL expansion team in Albuquerque, NM, two-a-day practices in professional football, and an NFL professional coming directly from unknown community college (even the actual players she lists in the book to make this more plausible played for NCAA Division I teams before going to the NFL) to name a few. But if we let all of this go, there are some really cool points made in this book.

First of all, Jordan is clearly a girl who loves football, but I wouldn’t say that she fits into a tomboy stereotype. She is comfortable wearing makeup, dresses, and heels, cries when she feels upset, and flirts with guys she likes without punching them in the arm (it makes my eyes roll so hard every time I see a tomboy character do that in TV shows and movies). She works hard to stay in shape, befriend her team, and do her best on the field, but she doesn’t sacrifice her own personality for those things. I’m going to be perfectly honest, Jordan is who I think I would have liked to be if the thought of running didn’t make me break out into hives. I have mad respect for her.

Secondly, Aiden comes from a family of strong women who don’t feel the need to conform to stereotypes, and he is honest with the fact that he got into football to escape the constant pressure of being the only guy amidst a bunch of women. His primary reason for disliking Jordan’s presence on the team is that his escape from women is being invaded. Everyone needs a place where they feel comfortable being themselves, but Aiden eventually recognizes that no one should be excluded from those places because they are different. It’s really cool to see how his thinking evolves.

When I first read this book, I was a little irritated that Jordan and Aiden became romantically involved. I am often bothered by the “guys and girls can’t be friends without it becoming romantically charged” mentality that many people have. Roberts avoids that bias by throwing in Jordan’s platonic relationship with another player on the team. But Jordan and Aiden are coworkers and I thought, “The first women who broke into other professions actively avoided this exact scenario because it could have a negative impact on their work environment and on future women breaking into the field. Why does Jordan have to have a relationship with another football player?”

Then I realized something: Jordan has a right to be happy. For that matter, so does Aiden. Jordan wouldn’t be happy with a guy who couldn’t keep up with her physically, or who didn’t understand football and its appeal. Who am I to prevent their happiness, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their jobs as football players and role models?

Roberts mentions in her note at the end of the book that she didn’t pull any punches when it came to the attitudes of the players in the story, but she thought it would be more explosive than what she wrote. I have to agree that the reality of a female NFL player could be much darker and potentially more violent. Historically, and especially in sports, the inclusion of people who are “different” has resulted in violence (Remember the Titans, Radio, and Glory Road are all based on true stories and the violence in those movies was minimized for ratings reasons). That doesn’t mean women couldn’t succeed in the NFL – or any professional sport they chose – but this book is optimistic with regard to the transition.

If you’re an armchair athlete like me, Like a Girl is a great read to flex your sports knowledge while escaping reality. If football isn’t your sport, Roberts has several sports romances available including rugby and soccer – they just don’t include a professional female athlete.

Do you like sports romances? What’s your favorite sport to read about? Let us know in the comments!

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