For the Win by Rochelle Allison and Angel Lawson is the type of book I would never have chosen to read without some prompting. It was chosen as the Book of the Day by OnlineBookClub for 18 January 2017 and I needed to read a sample of it and provide reviewer comments in order to enter a raffle the site operates. I was pleasantly surprised at how interested I became in the book because 1) I don’t care for sports, 2) the Olympic Games and associated television coverage bore me, and 3) I don’t care for romance novels. For me, this book was negative in all ways as far as why I select something to read. So I was surprised that after reading the sample I continued reading to the end of the book.
Julian is hiding out. He is in seclusion after a meltdown (nervous breakdown) as an all-star famous soccer goalie. The fame mixed with stress playing at such a high level went to his head. He succumbed to the lure of soccer fan groupies and alcohol which resulted in a physical and emotional breakdown. The physical breakdown was more severe than just loss of competitive edge; Julian had type 1 diabetes and had to monitor his system for sugar levels several times a day. When the partying became too extreme, the alcohol caused him to forget. His several female fans liked to post party pictures on Facebook. When Melina, his steady girlfriend saw these, her reactions led to Julian’s emotional breakdown. So Julian ran away, abandoning his past life.
Living in a van and in seclusion on the West Coast, Julian earned his daily keep by coaching high school soccer wannabe(s). Despite his determination to cut all ties with his past, he did keep contact with his mother on a daily basis. He knew she worried about his diabetes. But this meant that several people could find him. After almost a year in seclusion, Allie, twin sister to Julian visits him. She brought her best friend, Melina with her. The two of them urge him to call a promoter, Kevin McDowell but Julian doesn’t want to do that. He knows McDowell will try to get him to return to the world of soccer in a support position for the US national team that will go to Rio for the Olympic games. Julian does not want the temptations of that world; he has lost confidence in his ability to cope.
McDowell makes the offer that Julian did not want to hear. Julian refuses. McDowell then applies the pressure. Allie is going to Rio as part of the women’s soccer team for the US. If Julian does not agree, McDowell will make sure Allie doesn’t play. Of course, Julian agrees even though he knows the result will be a tumultuous situation to live with. In the world of soccer competition, all the top players know or know of each other. The US soccer team members know Julian, know of his meltdown, and are resentful that he let team members down earlier. Since soccer is a team sport and no one wants to play with Julian, integrating himself into the new team will be difficult. He will be in Rio with Allie, that was part of the deal. But he will also be there with Melina, who is captain of the US women’s soccer team. Her skill at the sport is equal to Julian’s.
Throughout the book, the reader knows that Julian and Melina are destined for each other. But she resents Julian almost to the point of hatred. This is not a mystery novel. The readers expect them to get together at the end. The way the authors describe the processes and problems to get to the desired end makes for an entertaining romance novel set in a sports environment.
There are interesting backstories to all the main characters. Allie, Julian, Melina, and Marcus grew up together in a multicultural environment. Julian and Melina were dating exclusively, or so Melina thought until she saw the Facebook posts. After Julian left, life went on for the other characters. What were they doing with their lives while Julian was contemplating the insides of his van?
There are several questions to answer that will keep the reader going until the conclusion. What did Julian actually do to earn the almost enmity of Melina? How will the two US national teams finish in the Olympic competitions? Can Julian resist the temptations of female fans at the Olympic village? Should Kevin McDowell receive some kind of punishment for sleazy promotional activities? How can Julian ever ingratiate himself enough to start on the playing field with the US men’s soccer team? What is going on with Allie? Because Julian went to Rio, Allie gets to play on the team captained by Melina. Is this fair for the women’s team? Is she good or are they carrying her just so Julian would agree to play?
Any language some would find objectionable I found completely appropriate in context. There is little for which to take exception. Sexual situations are underwhelming. I rate this as good for 15-year-old readers and up. The straightforwardness of the writing makes this a book I would recommend to my English as a Second Language learners.