Sixteen-year-old Harper was once a rising star on the tennis court—until her coach dropped her for being “mentally weak.” Without tennis, who is she? Her confidence at an all-time low, she secretly turns to her childhood friend, next-door neighbor Jacob—who also happens to be her sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend. If her sister finds out, it will mean a family war.
But when Harper is taken on by a new coach who wants her to train with Colt, a cold, defensive, brooding young tennis phenom, she hits the court all the harder, if only to prove Colt wrong. But as the two learn to become a team, Harper gets glimpses of the vulnerable boy beneath the surface, the boy who was deeply scarred by his family’s dark and scandalous past. The boy she could easily find herself falling for.
As she walks a fine line between Colt’s secrets, her forbidden love, and a game that demands nothing but the best, Harper must decide between her past and her future and between two boys who send her head spinning. Is the cost of winning the game is worth losing everything?
The Harper Effect is a debut YA novel by Australian author Taryn Bashford, taking the reader deep into the world of professional tennis. It’s as much a romance novel as it is a fun, sporty novel for tennis fans.
I love tennis. It’s probably one of my favourite sports. So to find a YA novel that features this much tennis was amazing. I loved all the behind-the-scenes exchanges and all the travel, and I love how this book wasn’t just about the lead up to one tournament, but several. Throughout the book, Harper and Colt perform many times together, and they learn something new about each other with each match.
Later Milo talks tactics and strategies — how we must know our opponents, when they’ve won and lost, why they’ve won and lost, how we adapt to them. ‘Winning is not only about how well you play, it’s about how well you make your opponent play badly,’ he says.
It’s so refreshing to read a young adult novel where the character’s love of sport is not just a mentioned trait, but is actually embedded in the storyline. This novel is not just about Harper’s tricky relationship with her sister’s ex-boyfriend. It’s about her love for tennis and her determination to succeed, and her efforts in learning to understand her somewhat moody — but troubled — doubles partner Colt.
Taryn Bashford does a really fantastic job of illustrating the relationship between a teen and their parent, particularly when the child has made poor choices. When Harper’s dad sees her kissing Jacob, he’s really disappointed in her, and I found this exchange to be really relatable and believable. I also think that the strong relationship that Harper has with her dad is really great to read about — I love YA novels that actually feature parents in the storyline. Absent parents can be frustrating in a YA novel.
Despite loving this novel and absolutely adoring all the tennis, I did find it rather unbelievable that two young teenagers would make it as far as they did so quickly. It’s not impossible, but Colt and Harper both make it very far for how young they are. I guess part of me felt like in real life, there’d be a lot more losses before they succeeded as well as they did. Additionally, the book is filled with metaphors and similes that are a bit redundant and could’ve been cut from the book.
“When we arrive for training I’m in the mood to wrap the tennis net around the throat of the first person who speaks to me. I march onto the court and throw my bag at the ground.”
I felt that Jacob’s character seemed to escalate at a really fast rate. Towards the end of the novel, his behaviour seems a little too extreme, and I thought his antagonistic attitude could’ve been reduced a bit.
This is great summer read, perfect for lounging by the pool or the beach and enjoying the story — I read this over my summer holiday and thought it was really fun. I’m a huge fan of tennis though, and it’s the Australian Open, after all. Perfect timing!
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Harper Effect
Pan Macmillan Publishers