Tennis Lessons by Susannah Dickey

I recieved a copy from the publisher via Netgalley at my request. This review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

You’re strange and wrong. You’ve known it from the beginning.

This is the voice that rings in your ears. Because you never say the right thing. You’re a disappointment to everyone. You’re a far cry from beautiful – and your thoughts are ugly too.

You seem bound to fail, bound to break.

But you know what it is to laugh with your best friend, to feel the first tentative tingles of attraction, to take exquisite pleasure in the affront of your unruly body.

You just need to find your place.

From dead pets and crashed cars to family traumas and misguided love affairs, Susannah Dickey’s revitalizing debut novel plunges us into the private world of one young woman as she navigates her rocky way to adulthood.

Review

This was such a quirky read and I loved the narrative style throughout. Told from the point of view of the protagonist, it charts her life from childhood, with each chapter being dedicated to a particular memory or formative moment. Despite the gaps in time between each chapter as they leap forwards in time, the voice of the main character is so strong that her complexities are laid bare and I found it easy to forge an understanding with her, even when I didn’t agree with her.

It’s a fantastic concept, and it’s entirely character based. These moments create her as a person, a selection of jigsaw pieces picked up and compiled to make a whole. It really got me thinking about the old nature/nurture argument, and thinking about how early experiences can be so shaping, without realisation. She believes that she is inherently ‘different’ and this belief underpins the entire novel and the events within it. The decisions she makes are poor, and grounded in an inability to think well of herself – she doesn’t believe she is worth anything, and it’s a sobering read for this reason. I felt heartbroken that this young woman thought so little of herself from such a young age and it was a pattern that set to repeat itself. Whilst it can be classed as a coming of age style novel as it does chart growth into adulthood – it feels so much more than that. Raw, honest, dark and unafraid. It’s an unfiltered ride, serious, yet funny and at times utterly gross and others tear-inducing.

I found Tennis Lessons to be a compelling, dark and yet witty read, it was one I quickly fell into and I found myself drawn to and caring about what happened to this young woman. The close narrative drew me so close to her that I felt her pain and at times felt angry on her behalf, as well as angry at her. Mental health is a key theme throughout, and for this reason there are some scenes that are difficult to read, and some that are difficult to interpret as on onlooker – and I must admit I did get a little lost in some of these sections, although that was probably the point!

An interesting and varied read. I loved the writing style and adored the concept, I will without doubt be looking out for more novels from this author.

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