Author: Liz Fichera
Genre: Sports, YA Contemporary
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Source: finished paperback from the publisher for review
Synopsis: When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.
But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.
But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…
GET HOOKED ON A GIRL NAMED FRED.
3/5 stars – The golf bits are fun, but good God, these characters need spines
Drive thirty miles in any direction in Florida and you’re sure to find yourself near a golf course, be it public or private. Seeing as I have the hand-eye coordination of a constantly drunk kitten, I figured out a long time ago that golf, baseball, and any sports that involve hitting a ball with any object were beyond my capabilities. That made being interested in golf a long shot, but Hooked and its golf elements managed to hook me pretty thoroughly! The characters were frustrating, but for the small scenes in which they’re playing golf, tolerating them was worth it.
Between the two narrators, Fred is the more relateable, well-written character. Her mother’s alcoholism could fall into racial stereotype territory, but thanks to a realistic portrayal of her mother’s good and bad moments, it doesn’t. Fred only occasionally buckles under the massive weight of racism and sexism she faces as the best player, only girl, and only Native American on her school’s golf team, but that’s okay. With all she’s going through, it’s hard to blame her for hurting because all she can do is deal with it. It’s pretty clear speaking up isn’t going to help her.
Now Ryan is a another story. He’s the poor little white kid with one always-working parents and one cheating parent and plenty of money. Fred can sometimes show a spine, but Ryan appears to be deathly allergic to even the idea of having one! Even when he’s started crushing on Fred and becomes good friends with her, he lets racist old Seth keep threaten her, call her Pocahontas, trick her, sabotage her, and so much more. He also doesn’t know how to tell his flat mean-girl girlfriend/ex-girlfriend/? to BUZZ OFF.
It’s the golf tournaments and how they’re written that are really the fun part of this novel. Fichera nails the feel of being at a golf tournament and being the one in front of the ball, trying to make it to the hole without going over par. Capturing the spirit of a sport in pages is hardly easy, especially to such a degree that someone uninterested in the sport feels it, but Fichera does it as easily as one breathes. Sadly, these scenes aren’t in the story nearly enough because it all wants to focus on Fred and Ryan. Le sigh.
Fred and Ryan’s connection is sweet at times, but at other times, it baffles me they want to be together. Specifically, why does Fred want to be with a guy who will let his friends harass her, try to excuse a guy who had just threatened her moments before, and may not have broken up with his girlfriend before making out with her for the first time? She can do better. The antagonists are one-dimensional and the more ridiculous bits of drama conspiring to keep Fred and Ryan apart borders on melodramatic half the time.
Something really intriguing is that despite such casual racism among Ryan’s friends and family–Seth’s defining trait is how racist he is toward Fred–no one is ever called racist. They’re called every other name in the book and told to cut their racist behavior out, but the word “racist” is never used. They’ll call Fred Pocahontas or the Indian girl and make awful, generalizing statements about Native Americans in general, but nope, the word never happens. We don’t get so much as a rant about racism, though Fred shuts Ryan down hard when he tries to excuse Seth’s threatening and very racist behavior.
This is a problem. There’s no softer way to put it than these characters needed to be called out with that word. Yes, they’re also jerks, but that distinction between being a jerk and being so outright racist needs to be made because it’s a big difference, especially when it comes to Native Americans. Have you heard of the Washington Redskins football team? That is one example of how normalized racism against Native Americans is and why Seth’s actions and countless other characters’ words needed to be called out as exactly what they were. They’re understood to be wrong, thank goodness, but the word matters.
I don’t regret reading Hooked, but it could have been so much better and it pains me to see all the ways it could have been better. Riley and Sam, who star in Hooked‘s companion novel Played, didn’t show off anything worth reading about in the minor roles they played here, so it’s unlikely I’ll read on to see how they come together and fall in love and all that. If romance and sports together is your thing, go for it, but be prepared for a little melodrama. Rather, a lot.
And one last errant thought? That black and white cover whitewashes Fred at worst, deliberately obscures her race at best. Maybe the model really is Native American, but I can’t tell from the cover and my research didn’t turn anything up either. I also wish it represented the sports element of it too because the novel isn’t just about their romance; no one who looks at the image is going to have any idea competitive golf plays a major role and that’s rather sad.